Community Challenge Promotes Overdose Awareness

May 1, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

A unique approach to raising awareness about the overdose emergency is making an impact in Vernon – turning naloxone training into a community challenge.

“We want to help people in Vernon get informed about overdose prevention, get naloxone into the hands of community members and show them they can save lives,” says Holly Vanjoff, Interior Health Overdose Prevention Knowledge Coordinator and organizer of the Vernon Naloxone Challenge.

“My goal is to get as many businesses and organizations as possible involved.”

Inspired by other awareness challenges, the Vernon Naloxone Challenge involves businesses and organizations completing naloxone training, taking a photo of newly-trained staff for Interior Health’s social media accounts, and then nominating another local business to participate.

Before she started the initiative in early 2019, Holly spent a lot of time reaching out to businesses and organizations to set up naloxone training and promote overdose prevention awareness.

But soon after launching the Vernon Naloxone Challenge, people started coming to Holly, passionate about participating in the community’s response to the overdose emergency and excited to learn how they can help to save lives in Vernon. Local media stories about the challenge have only added to its momentum.

“I’ll come into work from the weekend and have messages and emails from people inquiring about naloxone training and asking how they can get involved,” says Holly. “It’s been really amazing to see that response from the community.”

Holly believes the enthusiasm is part of a trend towards increased awareness of overdose prevention in the region.

“…In the past year, I have seen a shift in the openness to learn about and carry naloxone here in Vernon.”

 “When businesses and organizations post their photos on Interior Health’s social media accounts, it helps challenge the stigma around overdoses and substance use in general. The message is that they care about overdoses in our community and shows that this is urgent, and we can all get involved,” she says. “I see camaraderie in our community, and I feel lucky to be part of that.”

The solidarity Holly has observed in Vernon is growing in other parts of the province as well. As communities work together and share ways to respond to the overdose emergency, simple ideas can have an even bigger impact. Holly highlights how a team in Langley recently incorporated a Vernon-inspired naloxone challenge into their own community outreach and education efforts.

“That touched me so much and made me feel a part of something bigger than what’s happening here in Vernon,” she concludes.

“It feels so inspiring and it’s giving me all this energy to just keep moving forward with this. It’s not just our individual communities – it’s our province coming together to respond to this crisis.”

Check out some business and organizations that have completed the Vernon Naloxone Challenge on Interior Health’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Learn more about the Take Home Naloxone program and complete naloxone training online. 

Know how to identify and respond to an overdose.