Pubdate: Tue, 31 Jan 2017
Source: Barrie Examiner (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017, Barrie Examiner
Author: Ian McInroy
Page: A1


City firefighters are being equipped with the life-saving, anti-opioid
drug naloxone as a response to the growing number of over doses
happening in Barrie and across Simcoe County.

Barrie Fire and Emergency Service will be the first fire department in
Ontario to administer this medication, according to Fire Chief Bill

An overdose of opioid drugs - such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin,
methadone or oxycodone - can cause a person's breathing to slow or

"Our primary concern is always the safety and well-being of those
involved in any emergency we respond to," Boyes said. "We are already
attending these calls so there will be no increase in medical
responses as a result of our ability to administer naloxone, (but) it
will allow us to provide a life-saving intervention in a timely manner."

According to health officials, naloxone can reverse negative opioid
effects, so someone experiencing a possible overdose can breathe
normally and potentially regain consciousness, he said, adding a
healthy person given a dose of naloxone would not notice any side effects.

"Naloxone works in one to three minutes, lasts 30 to 90 minutes and
can neither be abused nor cause overdose," Boyes said.

Simcoe County paramedic services deputy chief Merideth Morrison said
as the primary provider of emergency medical care in the community,
paramedics have carried naloxone for many years.

"Naloxone is proven to be an effective drug to reverse the effects of
opioids. We are currently working with police services to provide
awareness around the risks of opioid exposure and the use of
naloxone," she said.

Barrie police Const. Nicole Rodgers said the force is working through
its training and getting naloxone distributed.

"Our main focus is our front-line officers. As we're trained, we're
going to be equipped with it," she said. "Eventually, each officer
will have their own kit as the training is completed."

The number of opioid-related incidents Barrie police are responding to
is on the rise, Rodgers said.

"We have seen an increase in the number of overdoses and we've also
seen the presence of (opioids) when we're dealing with drug seizures,"
she said. "But we're also concerned with our officers' safety from
that standpoint. It can be something that's airborne or even very
deadly just to touch in very small amounts."

She said police will soon be carrying naloxone not only for the safety
of citizens but also for officers and at some point, they may need to
take naloxone themselves.

"We've heard of officers out west who have been exposed to (opioids),
even at a traffic stop, and they have had negative effects and ended
up in hospital because of it," Rodgers said. "That's one of the main
reasons why we have just buckled down and made this call (to carry

"Part of our training incorporates that safety because officers could
potentially walk into a house and not necessarily be there for a
drug-related call, but end up being exposed to some sort of deadly
opioid that we have to be careful of," Rodgers said. "You can't smell
it, you can't see it and you can't taste it so when you're going in
somewhere, you have to be aware of all the factors.

"That's why we're taking this seriously and why we're carrying the
naloxone," she added.

Morrison said county paramedics receive ongoing annual education
around the use of naloxone.

"In light of the recent health unit identification of an increase in
opioid use and the potential for the use of extremely potent opioids,
the county's paramedic services has increased the amount of naloxone
carried by paramedics on their vehicles and the Ministry of Health and
Long-Term Care has made changes to paramedic medical directives
allowing for larger and more frequent doses of naloxone."

Rodgers said it is "very realistic" to say the problem could escalate
in Barrie.

"We want to be one step ahead so we don't have officers or anyone in
emergency services in a position where they are exposed to it and they
have a medical emergency without us having something to help them,"
she said. "When we're all together, then we're much stronger to help
the community and each other."
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