The CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary says its youth are not immune to the opioid crisis.
Its staff and volunteers have already been using the injectable form of the opioid antidote, naloxone, to help reverse the life-threatening effects of an overdose.
But now clubs across Canada have been gifted a two-year supply of the nasal spray form of naloxone, called Narcan, by the company which makes it, Adapt Pharma Canada.
"Because we are on the very front line of some of the most traumatized young people, we use this frequently. But this is a much safer, much quicker and easier-to-use dosage and so it will go into use straight away," said CEO Jeff Dyer.
The Calgary chapter of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada works with 5,000 youth in its community clubs, group homes and emergency shelters.
Last year, the organization lost three youth to fentanyl overdoses.
Staff say they died alone and off-site.
"Certainly, in the last five years, there's been a significant change with the vulnerability of the young people we see. More often we're having young people pass away and that really impacts our staff teams," said Kim Ledene, director of youth housing and shelters.
Ledene says they're always looking for ways to make their spaces safer for both the youth and their staff and volunteers, and she believes having access to the nasal spray form of the opioid antidote will make a difference.
"When you are in a crisis and there's an emergency and somebody is overdosing in front of you, like, that's a lot for us to ask our staff to do. And so having Narcan, that's just a nasal spray. I think our staff are really excited about having that option," said Ledene.
Adapt Pharma is not disclosing the value of the donation but estimates each unit would cost about $150 to purchase at a pharmacy.
And while it is pleased to partner with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, it's saddened by the reality that so many youth are at risk of a fatal opioid overdose.
"In order to protect our youth and make sure that youth everywhere across the country are in a safe space when they come into a Boys and Girls Club, this made perfect sense," said David Renwick, general manager of Adapt Pharma Canada.
Since July 2016, the company has distributed close to 500,000 units of Narcan across the country, it says.
Adapt Pharma Canada is giving 3,000 units to 700 Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada. Renwick says it's a two-year partnership that may be renewed.
But staff in Calgary hope the ongoing education and conversations around the dangers of opioids will help prevent the need for the drugs in the long run.
"We're always trying to meet them where they're at. This is just another tool in our tool kit that helps us keep them safe while we work with them through their stages of change in getting to the place of wanting to get well and maybe go to treatment," said Ledene.