The WASUA Overdose Prevention (OPAM) Project

Presented at Power of Peer Work Community Forum 22 Apr 15
by Paul Dessauer WASUA who is the Outreach Coordinator (
& Laura Jinks who is the OPAM + Peer-administered Naloxone Project Officer (

My notes from this presentation can be found here The WASUA Overdose Prevention Project

WASUA (WA Substance Users Assoc.) is a consumer organisation whose role is to:
• advocate
• sit on committees
• primarily service delivery
– focus on harm reduction/ drug tt
– run largest syringe exchange program

Some fascinating stats on WA rates of OD were presented which show the rise to be significantly higher than anywhere else in Australia. In fact the rate of accidental opioid overdose in WA more than doubled between 2007 & 2009.

The OPAM project was comprehensively outlined with the audience learning that the aim of this project is to reduce the physical & psychological harm assoc. with illicit drug use, with a focus on preventing & managing opioid or poly-drug CNS depressant overdose, & on preventing & responding appropriately to amphetamine toxicity.

In this very successful project, every 6 months, OPAM recruits 8 – 15 current users of illicit opioids who are suitable candidates to be OPAM peer educators. Selected candidates are paid to attend 3 days of training, culminating in basic life support certification, but also including education on many other pertinent topics (see summary).

For the next 6 months, participants receive regular education & mentoring to help develop their knowledge & their skills & confidence as educators within their specific peer group(s). They also record de-identified data in a diary every time they educate their peers or respond as a first aider to an overdose, drug toxicity or other drug-related harm. They come back every month, on a paid basis, for these education/ mentoring sessions.

The outcomes from this project are significant and are a powerful example of what is possible in well-structured peer work.

Building on their experience with OPAM, WASUA developed the Peer-administered Naloxone Project in 2012, initially recruiting suitable candidates through networks established by OPAM. This project was a collaboration between DAO & WASUA, under the auspices of the Overdose Strategy Group. Content, process and key training messages were outlined.

This presentation was the highlight of the day for me and I’d strongly recommend reading my summary on the link above.

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