Tech company trains staff to save Downtown Eastside overdose victims

Oct 24 2018, 9:12 pm

Vancouver tech marketing company Archive Digital is nestled on Abbott Street in the city’s Gastown neighbourhood, that’s known for its fashionable shops, successful startups, and some of the best restaurants in town.

But Gastown is also located close to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where homelessness is a serious issue and opioid addiction is claiming lives.

After witnessing people overdosing on drugs near the office, Archive Digital decided that it needed to step up for the community and train its staff to administer Naloxone.

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Archive Digital Naloxone Training/ Supplied

Naloxone – sold under the brand name Narcan, among others – is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in an overdose situation.

“[Since] recently moving into our new office in Gastown, we felt it appropriate to take note of the more immediate issues relevant to the company,” company partner John Morton, told Daily Hive.

According to the latest statistics from the BC Coroners Service, there were a total of 256 suspected drug overdose deaths in Vancouver so far this year.

In 2017, a total of 366 suspected overdose deaths were recorded — working out to roughly one per day.

An eye-opening experience

Eight employees from Archive felt comfortable in taking the training and receiving Naloxone kits.

The training took place at Archive’s Gastown office space and was facilitated by the company’s social media expert Telia Hsieh, who also has a background in community engagement and social services.

Morton says the training was an eye-opening experience for Archive’s team.

“Now knowing that Naloxone kits are made to avoid direct contact (which most people get nervous about especially if its a drug overdose), I feel much more comfortable using one on someone having an opioid overdose if need be,” said one employee.

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Archive Digital’s Telia Hsieh and David Lui during Naloxone training/ Supploed

But addiction can also be a touchy subject to talk about —especially in the workplace.

Morton says that some staff were “certainly uncomfortable and most of them didn’t properly understand the issues facing addiction” to begin with.

“Most of us didn’t come into the community with knowledge in terms of the complex historical and systemic issues that surround addiction,” he said.

“Unless we have encountered it in our personalize lives, the subject can be seen as uncomfortable, overwhelming, scary or unpredictable. We spend most of our time online, however, it is still vitally important us that we stay connected to our physical surroundings,” he said.

Bridging the gap

The training helped employees bridge the gap between their everyday lives and the neighbourhood they work in and Morton hopes more Vancouver tech companies will follow suit.

“Digital marketing and tech startups are revered these days and often have a strong voice in the community,” he said.

“As the tech community continues to expand in Vancouver, it is our social responsibility to be aware and educated on the issues facing the community—even if they fall outside of the industry. It’s simply part of being human and staying connected to one another.”

Those looking to learn more about Naloxone training can find more information here. Take-home Naloxone kits are also available for free at pharmacies across the province.

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