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Youth workers in Bendigo to carry life-saving drug Naloxone in ground-breaking pilot program to prevent opioid overdose death

At-risk young people in Bendigo will be the first to benefit from a ground-breaking overdose prevention program being piloted by Australia’s biggest youth-specific drug and alcohol service, YSAS.

The YSAS team in Bendigo will be trained in the administration of a non-addictive medicine called Naloxone. YSAS is working in collaboration with Bendigo Community Health.

Naloxone nasal spray is an evidence based intervention that is proven prevent death from opioid overdose by temporarily reversing the effect of the drug.  Naloxone nasal spray is safe, easy to use and carry and cannot be misused.

The number of accidental drug overdose deaths in Australia each year continues its long-term rise, and is a major contributor to mortality across Australia. In 2018 there was1556 unintentional drug overdoses. People aged under 30 represent one in10 lives lost to accidental drug overdose.

YSAS naloxone trainer Crios O’Mahony, who is leading the pilot program, said many accidental drug overdose deaths could have been prevented if someone present had Naloxone with them and had been trained how to use it.

“This program is absolutely about saving young lives,” Mr O’Mahony said. “We know that Naloxone is a very effective because it temporarily reverses opioid overdose and can keep someone breathing while help is on the way. It is never intended as an alternative to medical help – the effects are temporary and effective and can buy time before emergency services arrive.”

YSAS CEO Andrew Bruun added: ”Due to the nature of YSAS’ work, we have known many young people over the years who have died unnecessarily from accidental overdose. It is devastating for families and communities and extremely distressing for those who work on the front line too.”

“Naloxone is only part of a solution that requires broader drug law reform and regulation of illicit substances, but it is an absolute must for our workers, as well as the young people we work with. It can literally mean the difference between life and death for a young person experiencing accidental overdose,” Mr Bruun said.

“While local residents have no reason to be alarmed, we are concerned about the rise of fentanyl in Australia. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid substance more potent than heroin that has caused a huge amount of harm in the USA. Illicit use of Fentanyl has recently been detected in Sydney and it’s only a matter of time before we see used in Victoria. 

“The positive news is that young people who develop problems with drugs and get treatment early have a great chance of recovering well.”

The Victorian Government has allocated funding to service providers across Victoria via the Naloxone Subsidy Initiative which aims to get naloxone in the hands of people who are most at risk of, or likely to witness, an overdose.

About Naloxone

Naloxone works on opioid drugs including heroin, morphine, codeine, tramadol, oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine and methadone. It does not work on alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines but can help if someone has overdosed on a combination of these things with an opioid. It is not addictive and cannot be misused

Naloxone is available on prescription or to buy over the counter at most pharmacies. Some Needle and Syringe Programs can help people get naloxone and train them how to use it.

From late in 2021 it is expected that the law in Victoria regarding naloxone will change to mean that it will no longer require a prescription or a pharmacist to access naloxone. When the law changes, many YSAS workers will be able to hand naloxone directly to young people and others and train them to use it.

Bendigo is the first YSAS site where staff have been trained in the correct administration of Naxolone and will carry Naloxone and will train and encourage young people to have these on hand as well.

About YSAS

The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Australia’s largest, youth-specific community service organisation. Operating since 1998 as Victoria’s flagship Youth Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) service, YSAS now employs over 350 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While YSAS continues to provide effective Youth AOD services, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and meaningful community participation.

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