Veld Music Festival will allow attendees to bring naloxone

Fans attending the Veld Music Festival at Downsview Park will be permitted to bring naloxone.

The promoter of the sixth annual event, INK Entertainment, is allowing the opioid overdose antidote as part of its updated harm reduction strategy and safety measures announced on Friday (July 28).

The move comes a week after WayHome Music and Arts Festival backed away from a ban on festival-goers bringing their own anti-overdose kits. Initially, the three-day event’s promoter said that for safety reasons medical staff would be the only people permitted to carry the drug, but reversed that policy following a public outcry.

Naloxone is a fast-acting and potentially life-saving antidote to fentanyl, a drug that has been causing a spike in overdoses across the country. It comes in both injectable and nasal spray forms.

INK has not specified what form of naloxone will be permitted, and will release more detailed information next week.

Since 2003, the number of people dying from opioid-related causes in Ontario has increased 99 per cent, according to Public Health Ontario. In Toronto, overdose deaths went up 73 per cent between 2004 and 2015 and opioids accounted for 66 per cent of all accidental overdose deaths in 2015.

The overdose crisis has become a major issue for festival organizers such as INK Entertainment.

In 2014, two people died at Veld after taking drugs they bought on site and 13 others became ill. Police later ruled the deaths accidental and began placing “amnesty boxes” at subsequent festivals to allow attendees to drop off drugs without facing legal consequences.

This year, the promoter consulted with Toronto Public Health, the police and paramedics to develop new safety and harm-reduction protocols that include a “strong medical presence,” more water stations, man-made shade areas, dedicated accessible washrooms and a designated space for women staffed by a female security team.

Harassment has also become a big issue for festivals. Earlier this month, Montreal’s Osheaga outlined measures to address safety for women and LGBTQ fans, which included recruiting the all-female safety teams Hirondelles to roam the grounds and assist people as needed.

As in past years, Veld will offer outreach booths with peer-to-peer counselling and crisis intervention with harm-reduction project Trip! Volunteers, and once again implement a “drug-use surveillance intelligence system” to identify and track drugs that enter the festival grounds.

Veld Music Festival takes place August 5 and 6 and will feature performances by hip-hop and electronic acts such as Future, Major Lazer, Zedd, Migos, Tory Lanez and Tiësto.

UPDATE (August 4): Veld organizers will allow attendees to bring in naloxone kits in both the injectable or nasal spray form. “Those who choose to bring kits onto the festival premises should notify medics on-site, where they will need to be cleared before entry,” Ink’s director of risk management Jamil Kamal said in a statement. | @nowtoronto

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