N.S. expands access to naloxone kits to prevent opioid overdose deaths

The Nova Scotia government has announced more than $1 million in funding it says will address the increase in illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids in the province.

The province announced Friday it will spend $564,000 to expand access to naloxone – a medication that blocks the effect of opioids and can reverse an overdose.

The money will be used to buy and distribute naloxone kits through community and health care organizations, such as community pharmacies and municipal police.

Naloxone is already available in ambulances and emergency rooms throughout the province.

Health Minister Leo Glavine said they want to stop illicit opioid use from becoming a crisis as it has in other provinces.

"Our first priority is to save lives," Glavine said in a news release. "We have learned from other provinces that illicit opioids are a serious risk to anyone using street drugs and, more often, that includes young people."

Figures released by the Nova Scotia government show 60 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016, and four of those deaths involved illicit fentanyl.

The province says it is working on a full opioid response plan, which should be completed this spring.

Officials also announced $559,000 to support three community-based harm reduction organizations in 2017-18.

That includes $160,000 in new funding for the Northern Healthy Connections Society in Truro.