Brian Hurley, left, and Niall Hickey are two bar owners in different areas of the province who have been focused on training their staff on how to use naloxone kits. (Melissa Tobin/CBC News)
For Brian Hurley, co-owner of Iron Rock Brewery in Labrador City, training his staff on how to use naloxone is just one piece in making sure all his customers are safe inside his business.
"There's a lot of working professionals that do partake [in drug use]," Hurley said. "To have something as accessible as naloxone and be able to train our staff so that they're prepared or or have access to it, that's the approach we've taken."
He said having easily accessible naloxone in rural and remote parts of the province is especially important, given that healthcare services are often harder to access in these regions.
"Harm reduction is so much more important that you really do need to provide that access," Hurley said.
"Whether that's having test strips to be able to test something for fentanyl or any of those items, to be able to have those tools on site are real tangible ways that places can help."
As well, Hurley said a lot of drug users would be hesitant to pick up naloxone kits form healthcare facilities.
"I understand the ease and reason for that, but a lot of people do not want to approach a healthcare scenario for that," he said.
As such, it's important to have naloxone available where people will likely do drugs, like in a bar, he added.
Hurley was first introduced to the idea of having naloxone at his bar during last year's Canadian Brewery Awards.
Naloxone kits help reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids. (Paula Gale/CBC)
"Myself and my co-owner, my brother, were in Halifax and we caught up with a lab in Calgary that had assisted us with some testing of hand sanitizer in aluminum cans," Hurley said.
The lab offered him his first naloxone kit and by early June this year, Hurley was working on having his staff trained.
He said the Labrador West Status Of Women Council was a big help and even just opening the conversation about naloxone with people makes a difference.
As a business owner, he said he's worried that having naloxone on site could give people the wrong impression of his business.
However, he said it's all about safety.
"It does potentially stigmatise your community that you're talking about it," Hurley said. "I can understand people's resistance, but it's such a prevalent thing and we need to talk about it, prompting people to have conversations with their children or brother or loved one. We all have struggles. But it's what we don't talk about that can really lead to some really negative outcomes."
Another key point that Hurley thinks should be more well know is the Good Samaritan Act, which protects people from conviction if they're charged as a result of seeking assistance for, or having remained at the scene with someone suffering from a medical emergency.
"You can't be prosecuted for any possession offences should you be caught in the act of overdosing," Hurley said. "If you are a user yourself, I think that's really important to understand that you're protected and that at the end of the day the most important thing is that person's life."
Niall Hickey, the co-owner of the Newfoundland Embassy pub in downtown St. John's, says harm reduction is a necessary response to growing fears about overdoses and addiction. (Malone Mullin/CBC)
Hurley's comments come in the wake of naloxone training efforts led by Niall Hickey, co-owner of The Newfoundland Embassy in St. John's.
Hickey's efforts surrounding naloxone began after a young man died of a fatal overdose near his establishment. Since then, Hickey has worked with Thrive — a youth and young adult support group — to get more bars trained.
"Practically every single bar welcomed us in with open arms," Hickey said. "It was a really welcoming sight to see."
So far, around 25 bars have been trained in St. John's.
Hickey would also like to see a safe injection site set up in St. John's as he believes the crisis is increasing.
"Right now, it's every single day," Hickey said. "It doesn't matter if it's a Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday. You can walk out the door and see everyone downtown — a lot of zombie-looking people," he said.
"We do have customers coming in that just want to use the bathroom and you can tell they're going to use the bathroom just to try to use [drugs]."
Hickey said the focus needs to be on harm reduction.
"Drugs aren't going to go anywhere and they've been around for hundreds of years and they're not going to stop," he said.
"[We need to] just keep speaking about it, talk about harm reduction, get safe injection sites. It will help the community as a whole."