Pubdate: Fri, 16 Sep 2016
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Tiffany Crawford
Page: A9


Opioid blocker made available to address guards' safety concerns

Federal prison officers now have access to the life-saving opioid
blocker naloxone, following a complaint that several front-line
officers in B.C. were exposed to fentanyl.

Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers,
says members logged a complaint with the Correctional Service of
Canada a few weeks ago after some guards at Mountain Institution in
Agassiz fell ill.

He said paramedics had to administer naloxone to some of the affected
officers, indicating that they had been exposed to fentanyl, an opioid
that has led to a surge in overdose deaths in B.C. this year.

"Fentanyl is very dangerous for front-line correctional officers,"
Godin said, adding he did not have specific numbers on how many
overdoses there have been in B.C. prisons. "I know we have issues with
fentanyl in the prisons. There certainly has been a huge problem in

Godin said over the past week the union has held several meetings with
CSC, which agreed that the spray version of naloxone should be on site
so officers have quick access in case of exposure.

"We put our concerns on the table to make sure our members are
protected," he said. Godin said the two parties agreed to have
naloxone on site in a secured area instead of providing it to
individual officers.

Prison staff are the latest front-line workers to stock naloxone -
just as some police officers, paramedics and even university health
staff are doing - as the number of overdose fatalities continues to
rise in jails.

CSC spokesman Jean-Paul Lorieau said naloxone is also available to
prison nurses and clinicians as part of an emergency medical response
to drug overdoses.

"We are aware of the dangers posed by fentanyl and other opiates. We
are learning more about various options for the use of naloxone in a
correctional setting," Lorieau said in a statement.

Vancouver police announced last week that front-line officers have
also been exposed to fentanyl, but none have been injured.

The province declared a health crisis earlier this year in B.C. amid a
growing number of overdoses and deaths linked to fentanyl. There were
433 overdose deaths recorded between Jan. 1 and July 31 in B.C., a
nearly 75 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2015,
according to the coroner's service. More than 60 per cent of those
fatalities were linked to fentanyl-laced drugs.

Police say fentanyl, which is said to be 100 times stronger than
morphine, has been recently showing up in a variety of party drugs
such as cocaine and ecstasy.

Earlier this month, a group of nine friends in Delta began having
breathing difficulties after taking what was believed to be a small
amount of cocaine laced with fentanyl. They all survived but
authorities fear it could have been worse if they hadn't called 911.
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