Published Jul 20, 2017WayHome Music & Arts Festival is set to return to Oro-Medonte, ON, later this month, but some attendees voiced concerns about safety after learning that attendees would not be permitted to bring their own opioid overdose kits onto the premises.
Speaking to CBC, Ottawa's Maegan Mason said she was told by organizers that she could not bring a life-saving naloxone kit onto the site because it falls under the category of "drug paraphernalia," which is included on the festival's list of banned items.
However, reps from WayHome have now clarified the festival's position on the life-saving antidote. Naloxone (also known by the brand name Narcan) will be available on site (with medics roaming the ground in golf-carts, at every tent and with local medical providers), and training is available for all members of the security team, according to festival reps.
In a joint statement about staff training, WayHome medical advisers Kevin Jones (CEO of Odyssey Medical Inc.) and Dr. Adam Lund (chief medical officer of Odyssey Medical) said:
Fentanyl as a drug category is not new for prehospital and emergency providers, who already have the training to manage these emergencies... the frequency and potency is an emerging issue, though. Our team has experience with this emerging issue across Canada. Training on the use of Narcan, and how to integrate it into a primary response to a person with a potential overdose will continue to be stressed. In addition, our roving teams and fixed sites will have deployable Narcan kits, just like having 'epinephrine' for severe allergic reactions. Importantly, we also partner with local Paramedic and Fire Services who are essential links in the chain of response for these kinds of events.
In addition to ensuring proper administration by trained professionals, providing the kits on site prevents the need for festival security to test any and all substances entering the grounds via syringes (naloxone is available in both syringe and nasal spray forms), according to the festival.
Todd Jenereux, of the festival's promotion company Republic Live, has also shared the following statement in regards to concerns about safety on site:
It's important that people understand that the administration of Naloxone is simply just one step in the overall response protocol to an individual experiencing an opiate emergency. Administering Naloxone, or any other pharmaceutical, without consulting a professional medical team is not permitted on the festival grounds. Our team is committed to both quick emergency response, as well as proactive harm reduction. We go to great lengths to ensure that any medical emergency on site is handled by well trained, certified, and insured medical professionals, allowing our fans to focus their energy on enjoying their festival experience. With regards to our policy on Naloxone kits, they come with syringes filled with a substance that we are not equipped to test at the gates for each attendee interested in bringing them onsite. As well, we cannot depend on an untrained festival attendee to accurately diagnose a person in distress. While we can appreciate the fact that our WayHome community is one that always wants to help each other out, we encourage you to seek our onsite medical professionals should you encounter someone in any medical distress. For more information on site, feel free to visit any of the medical locations or the Festival Health Tent.
Elsewhere in the province, Ottawa Bluesfest also forbids "drug paraphernalia," but a spokesperson Joe Reilly told CBC that after consulting Ottawa Public Health, the festival made the decision to allow naloxone kits this year.
"There is no risk if naloxone is injected by accident so we didn't see any harm in allowing people to bring it on site," he said. "There were no public safety reasons to not allow it; in fact, there were public safety reasons to do it."
Unlike Ottawa Bluesfest, however, WayHome encourages its attendees to camp on the festival grounds for the entire weekend — which comes with the unique and added responsibility of maintaining the welfare of its patrons 24/7 for the duration of the event in an enclosed area.
On average, Ontario currently experiences two opioid-related deaths per day; as such, naloxone kits are currently available for free in the province for particular individuals. Find full information about the antidote and how to obtain a kit here.
As previously reported, WayHome will run from July 28 to 30 at Burl's Creek Event Grounds. This year's festival is also honouring passes from the shitshow that was Fyre Festival, as well as the now-cancelled Pemberton Music Festival.