Island Health has recognized three Victoria youth for their commitment to harm reduction awareness and training.
Sam Elder and siblings Made and Nyoman Sparshu are the inaugural recipients of the health authority’s Youth Harm Reduction award.
After losing a friend to the toxic drug crisis, Elder was motivated to learn more. Island Health said she then connected with a nurse practitioner at a youth clinic, who contacted some harm reduction coordinators to request Naloxone training and harm reduction information for Elder, Made and Nyoman.
Since then, the trio provided this training and information to more than 500 people in Greater Victoria, including high school students, staff and community members.
While fewer than 20 students attended their first workshop, they said the impact was immeasurable.
“Months later, it was because of that workshop that someone was able to save the life of a high-risk youth,” Elder, who just completed her first year at Simon Fraser University, said in a release. “Now, we are receiving emails from schools asking us to come and train there. It’s surreal, I’m extremely happy with the progress that we’ve made.”
They hope to bring Naloxone training to all Vancouver Island high schools and see harm reduction education included in the high school curriculum.
Tara Fitzgerald, director of Island Health’s drug poisoning crisis response, said the trio’s actions help reduce risk in the community and address stigma that can prevent people from accessing substance use care and support.
“Their project was so successful, and it was so great to have youth be empowered in this way,” said Keira St. George, a regional harm reduction coordinator at Island Health and one of the award’s founders. “I’m really excited to see what this award inspires.”
Sheila Malcolmson, mental health and addictions minister, said the recipients’ work in training youth to save lives will inspire others to support people who are struggling.
The Youth Harm Reduction award is open to those under the age of 19 who are advancing harm reduction projects in the Island Health region.
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