Three Victoria youth have been recognized by Island Health for their commitment and dedication to harm reduction awareness and training. The inaugural Youth Harm Reduction Award was given recently to Sam Elder and siblings Made and Nyoman Sparshu.
Pictured from left to right: Made Sparshu, Sam Elder and Nyoman Sparshu.
Congratulations Sam, Made and Nyoman for winning this honour,” says Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Their work, training youths to save lives, will inspire others to support people who are struggling.”
“We are honoured to acknowledge the work of this trio in training youth to respond in the event of a drug poisoning,” says Tara Fitzgerald, Director of Island Health’s Drug Poisoning Crisis Response. “These actions help reduce risk in our communities, and also address the stigma that can prevent people from accessing substance use care and support.”
Sam Elder began her journey in 2019, after losing a friend to the toxic drug crisis. “At the time I had never heard of Naloxone,” says Elder, referring to the medication used to reverse opioid poisonings.
However, she was motivated to learn more. She connected with a nurse practitioner at a youth clinic, who in turn contacted some harm reduction coordinators at Island Health to request Naloxone training and harm reduction information for Sam, Made and Nyoman. In turn, the trio have since provided this training and information to more than 500 people, including high school students, staff and community members in the Greater Victoria area.
Fewer than 20 students attended the first workshop, yet 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,” says Elder, who has completed her first year of studies at Simon Fraser University. “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.”
She also has more aspirations – including Naloxone training for all Vancouver Island high schools and the inclusion of harm reduction education into high school curriculum.
“Their project was so successful, and it was so great to have youth be empowered in this way,” says 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.”
Island Health’s annual Youth Harm Reduction Award is open to people under 19 who live in the Island Health region. Projects focused on public health harm reduction in their communities are eligible. Applications will be reviewed annually beginning in March, with the recipient announced in June.