In the media

St. John Ambulance partners with Health Canada to combat the opioid poisoning crisis

St. John Ambulance is proud to announce 2 programs as part of Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). Both programs are aimed at reducing opioid-related deaths by increasing access to opioid poisoning response training. St. John Ambulance will help ensure that life-saving Naloxone kits are available to more Canadians to help increase the survival rate of a person experiencing an opioid poisoning.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase of opioid poisonings within homeless populations across Canada. In response to this, Health Canada enlisted St. John Ambulance to provide desperately needed awareness training and Naloxone kits to the organizations most in need of the support. This first SUAP/St. John Ambulance program launched in September 2020, and has already provided 78 courses to homeless shelters and other support organizations across Canada, teaching over 750 people, and has distributed 2060 nasal Naloxone kits to areas where it is most needed.

At the request of Health Canada, St. John Ambulance has partnered with the Canadian Red Cross and ACT Foundation, as part of a larger 3-year initiative. This newest SUAP a program will deliver Opioid Poisoning Response Training to “underserved communities” in Canada. These are communities who may not currently have access to Naloxone or education programs. Running from early 2021 through to March 31, 2024, this program will provide virtual and in-person training to these underserved communities delivering Naloxone kits to those participants in person or by postal delivery, empowering them to have an immediate impact on the crisis in their communities.

The opioid crisis is impacting people of all socioeconomic levels in rural and urban areas across Canada. Fentanyl or its derivatives are significant drivers in the majority of apparent opioid-related deaths. Yet, not all opioid overdoses are a result of illicit drug use. Opioids are widely prescribed to treat pain.

The stigma of opioid poisoning may lead many to think of street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

In reality many homes across Canada have Opioids in them and this puts anyone in those households at risk of poisoning. Learning Opioid Awareness and getting trained to use Naloxone can help save the life of a stranger in your community or a loved one in your own home.

“The opioid overdose crisis continues to be a significant public health issue in Canada. In response, through funding provided by SUAP, St. John Ambulance is carrying out two programs that will build a support network across the country for those being impacted by the crisis, reduce the stigma associated with opioids, and save the lives of Canadians. With assistance from Health Canada, St. John Ambulance will distribute over 40,000 naloxone kits to the tens of thousands of Canadians we will train on how to recognize an opioid poisoning, react decisively to reverse that poisoning, and save the life of that person.”

Shawn McLaren
Chief Learning Officer, St. John Ambulance

The St. John Ambulance program will have significant impact in all areas of the country, in three distinct approaches.
First, it will provide community-specific face-to-face and virtual training to “underserved” communities as identified through our research. Participants in these programs will receive a free nasal Naloxone kit.

Second, it will provide a free self-paced online course for any Canadian to learn about the stigma surrounding opioid use, how to manage a poisoning situation, and how to take care of your own mental health after witnessing a poisoning. Participants in this program will be advised on how to obtain their own Naloxone kit through local pharmacies or other programs.

Third, it will expand the existing Opioid Poisoning Awareness section of St. John Ambulance national First Aid courses, so 500,000 students per year will get a deeper knowledge of the risks of opioids, and how to manage a poisoning situation. Participants in this program will be advised on how to obtain their own Naloxone kit through local pharmacies or other programs.

St. John Ambulance is honoured to partner with Health Canada, and our friends at the Canadian Red Cross and the ACT Foundation to coordinate an exhaustive national opioid awareness program. Together, we will make a significant impact on the lives of Canadians.

About St. John Ambulance Canada
St. John Ambulance is a humanitarian organization and is the foundation of the Order of St. John. The charity has operated in Canada since 1883 with a mission to improve people’s health, safety, and quality of life, training over 500,000 students in Canada each year in first aid and CPR. Its volunteers also provide hundreds of thousands of hours of community service across Canada. All proceeds from training and product sales fund St. John Ambulance’s community services, in addition to generous support from donors. Learn more at



[rnr_post_comment_header tag="h3"]

  1. Dave Brown Avatar

    I am interested in getting some nasal naloxone. We are a housing provider in New Westminster and we run a homleless shelter. We also provide Outreach services for the homeless

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *