Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2017
Source: Free Press, The (Fernie, CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Phil McLachlan


All first responders in the Fernie area are now equipped to take on a
potential opioid crisis.

Fernie Fire and Rescue were the last group in the area to become
trained in opioid overdose situations by BC Emergency Health Services.
The main area of focus for training was on Naloxone, the antidote for
opioid overdoses.

Unable to give any numbers at this time, Elk Valley RCMP Corporal Bob
Wright did state that, "We have responded to Fentanyl drug use in the
Elk Valley. It has resulted in overdose-type situations."

Fentanyl first hit the streets of Canada in 2014, and has since left a
long-lasting scar. Originating in the Vancouver area, it has since

"This issue is not just a Lower Mainland issue, it's spreading all
over," said Fernie Fire and Rescue Training Officer, Brendan Morgan.

A report from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General,
Office of the Chief Coroner states that there were 211 illicit-drug
overdose deaths in 2010, and 914 in 2016. 60 per cent of these were
Fentanyl related.

The use of Naloxone as an antidote is nothing new; BC Ambulance
Service has been carrying it for thirty years due to the presence of
heroin. The difference is that Fentanyl is synthetic opioid pain
medication, and many times more potent than heroin.

An overdose of an opioid comes when too much of the drug is taken and
it blocks the breathing receptors in the brain, to the point where a
person becomes unconscious and in more severe instances, dies.

If necessary in an overdose situation, Naloxone is administered into
the muscle, via the thigh or shoulder. One dose can last up to 90
minutes, depending on the individual. First responders are allowed to
give up to a maximum of two doses if the overdose requires it.

Naloxone combats the effects of opioids, by assisting in the breathing
of the victim, however if a first responder is ventilating the victim
properly, the use of Naloxone is unnecessary.

"They made it pretty clear that it's super important to have the
Naloxone, but it's even more important to get ventilations like bag
valve masks, as well as treating them with breathing before," said

In order for first responders to administer Naloxone, a victim must
have pinpoint pupils, be unconscious, as well as have a breathing
issue, which is defined by less than 10 breaths per minute.

On a regular basis, Fernie Fire and Rescue does not receive many
drug-related calls of any kind, and they are thankful for this.
However, there are increased instances of cocaine, and various party
drugs such as MDMA and Ecstasy being laced with Fentanyl.

"Fernie Fire and Rescue has found it to be quite important now, with
the kind of town it is, with the Calgary market and the party
atmosphere, we want to get on board and be ready for a situation where
we do have an opioid-related issue," said Morgan.

Morgan has served as training officer for three years, and has been
with the department a total of 16 years. There are six career officers
plus the chief, as well as 20 auxiliary members. When an auxiliary
officer has been with the centre for six months, they are able to
receive training as a first responder.

There is always one career (full-time) member on shift, and one career
member on call, 24-hours a day. One or two auxiliary members are on
pager 56, which is a pager specifically for first responders. Fernie
Fire and Rescue will respond as first responders if a code three is
announced, which pertains to a lights and sirens emergency.

Time is of the essence during an opioid overdose, which is why Fire
and Rescue have been trained to give the antidote if they arrive at
the scene before EMS.

"For us as first responders to actually give intermuscular injections,
it's got to be a pretty big crisis," said Morgan. "Because that's not
something we'd generally do."

Fentanyl has unofficially arrived in the Elk Valley, and although it
has not become a widespread issue yet, emergency crews across the
board are ready and prepared to deal with it as best they can.
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