MARPAC takes proactive approach to fentanyl crisis

MARPAC takes proactive approach to fentanyl crisis via special training sessions

MARPAC takes proactive approach to fentanyl crisis via special training sessions

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) aspires to be a leader in organizational health and wellness by offering instruction to military and civilian DND employees on the proper procedures if they encounter a fentanyl overdose victim.

The interactive one-hour training sessions are organized by the MARPAC Health and Wellness Strategy’s Addictions Free Living (AFL) Working Group in partnership with AIDS Vancouver Island.

They provide an informal discussion about the deadly opioid’s impact on our community and country, the associated stigma and myths surrounding substance use, and a question and answer session.

Participants of the session also receive hands-on training on how to use the life-saving Naloxone injection kit.

“The purpose of the presentation is to empower the workforce with the skill and knowledge they need to stay safe and be able to respond in the case of an emergency,” said Alli Jones, AFL working group member.

The first training session took place in the Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton theatre on July 10. The discussion was led by Lana Fine, a health educator with AIDS Vancouver Island.

Get the facts on fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is a powerful prescription painkiller, 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine and is often found in pill, powder, liquid and blotter form.

It is inexpensive, highly addictive and is being mixed with other drugs such as heroin, ecstasy and cocaine, often unbeknown to the user. 

It is odourless and tasteless, making it difficult to detect, and its potency is what makes it lethal. Many people don’t realize that a small amount of fentanyl, the size of two grains of salt, can send people into respiratory arrest.

It is now an accepted fact that the death toll across the country from fentanyl overdoses is growing; the Province of British Columbia became the first in Canada to declare fentanyl a Public Health Emergency in April 2016.

A national report titled Apparent Opioid-Related Deaths in Canada released by the Government of Canada in June 2018 found that of the 3,987 opioid-related deaths 92 per cent were accidental. Of those accidental opioid-related deaths 72 per cent involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, as compared to 55 per cent the previous year.

In British Columbia the drug overdose problem is more pronounced than the rest of Canada, with the province ranking the highest in accidental opioid-related deaths (974) and all drug overdoses (1,470) both in total numbers and per capita deaths with 20 or more per 100,000 people.

“This is a very serious situation that is impacting our communities,” said Jones. “We all have a role to play in saving lives.”

Stung by stigma

While statistics are staggering, Jones says educating participants about the stigma surrounding substance use is the first hurdle many people need to clear.

“Guilt and shame go hand in hand with substance abuse and it’s a topic many people don’t feel comfortable discussing. The more we can bring it to light, the more able we are to provide help and support,” she said.

Chief Petty Officer First Class Chris Koblun, an advocate for health and wellness, saw great value in offering a fentanyl awareness presentation and suggested FMF a suitable unit to trial it because of its diverse workforce. 

He had little difficulty filling the FMF theatre to capacity for the debut of the presentation, since many people in the community know someone close to them who may be at risk of knowingly or unknowingly using fentanyl.

“There was a great deal of concern from the audience throughout the presentation and you could clearly see participants were genuinely interested and engaged throughout,” said CPO1 Koblun.

Those in attendance reported this was one the best, most relevant, presentations they had attended in recent memory.

CPO1 Koblun and Jones are planning more workshops at FMF for early September. They are encouraging representatives from other units or departments at the base to get involved and book a training session at their unit. Alli Jones can be reached at 250-363-5532 or via email

For more information on fentanyl visit the Government of Canada website at

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