Excellence in Patient Care Award
Pharmacy Manager, Pharmasave Lions Gate
North Vancouver, B.C.
Pharmacist Kyle Denley never expected to be providing pharmacy services under overpasses, in the woods or in a jerry-rigged cabin.
“It’s not what I learned in school, but it’s definitely an important part of my daily experience,” Denley says.
After Denley opened Pharmasave Lions Gate at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, much of his focus has been on supporting patients with opioid use disorder and those with addictions and mental health needs.
Each day, he starts his morning at 7 a.m. in North Vancouver travelling through the community to check on patients with opioid use disorder to make sure they have their medications and they’re healthy.
He will search for patients under bridges, jump fences looking for them. One winter he found patients in a self-built mini cabin in an encampment. He was there to do an assessment. As he approached, noticed a strange smell; the propane tank that was being used to heat the cabin had a leak. Denley evacuated the patients and brought one in for an assessment.
Serving patients with opioid use disorder, addictions, and those with mental health needs on the North Shore means Denley is known by many as an “unsung hero” in the province’s overdose crisis.
“The overdose crisis is pretty horrendous, and we’re losing a lot of people,” says Ally Colbourne, a member of the local Overdose Outreach Team. “He’s got a very calm, loving demeanor.”
At his pharmacy, the team provides a comprehensive range of services, including opioid therapy, outreach, and delivery. The clientele includes mental health group homes, and services offered encompasses fentanyl patch changes, Sublocade® injections for long-acting OAT therapy, vaccinations, administration of injectable medications, minor ailments assessments, blister packs, and non-sterile compounding.
He works seven days a week, staying late and doing mental health patients’ daily outreach in the evenings. He’s known to keep his cell phone on through the evening, answering calls at midnight from staff at mental health group homes who have questions about a patient’s medication.
Kyle Denley, an unsung hero in the overdose crisis, tirelessly manages Pharmasave Lionsgate, providing crucial patient care and services such as opioid therapy, showcasing his profound influence on those grappling with addiction and mental health challenges.
Working with a patient population with mental health disorders means Denley must create a safe and non-judgmental space. Some may have symptoms of paranoia or hallucinations, which can make it difficult to for them to trust others.
Once Denley could not find a patient who was staying at a shelter and the staff didn’t know where he was. Denley found him hiding in the shadows, where he was having auditory hallucinations.
“I was able to just sit with him for 15 minutes, talk to him about what’s real and what’s not, and confirmed that the voices he was hearing were not actually out to harm him,” Denley says. Luckily, the patient had an antipsychotic medication that could be administered when needed, which Denley was able to do.
“He’s an advocate for [these patients]. He makes sure they get the best possible care,” says Nisa Kabolizaheh, a pharmacist at Lions Gate Pharmacy.
Patients like Stephen Reynolds say they owe him their lives. Reynolds relapsed and overdosed in his car. Denley found him and administered naloxone, which revived him.
“It was pretty crazy. I didn’t even know he was there until I woke up. He dragged me inside,” Reynolds says.
Others like patient Jason Mierau point to his promptness, his attention to detail and helpful nature.
“He’s the best pharmacist I’ve ever had to deal with,” Mierau says.
There can be interesting challenges for Denley as he travels to meet patients where they live. He’s gone into rundown buildings where he knows his patients are living, and he’s had police called on him from neighbours who thought he was part of nefarious activity. He had already registered with the RCMP, so they knew who he was.
“We laugh about it now, but it was a bit traumatizing for the patient,” he says.
So why does he go to such great lengths?
“It’s a service that’s so needed, even if they are hard to locate,” Denley says. “The issue is there is a lot of cracks in the system. A lot of people are not able to get access to the care they need unless people who care go to them.”