Pubdate: Thu, 01 Mar 2018
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Recorder and Times
Author: Wayne Lowrie
Page: A1


Prescott - The town's fire department has joined the growing number of
volunteer fire companies in Leeds and Grenville that refuse to carry
naloxone to counter opioid overdoses.

Fire Chief Barry Moorhouse said his department based its decision
partly on the fact naloxone-carrying paramedics are based in
Johnstown, only eight minutes away as the ambulance flies. Usually,
the EMS can get to a medical call in Prescott before his volunteer
department, Moorhouse said.

As well, Moorhouse said he fears the slippery slope of having his
trucks carrying drugs to medical calls. The department is far more
likely to encounter diabetic patients or people felled by allergic
reactions than people affected by opioid overdoses. Should
firefighters be required to carry EPIPENS and insulin, too? he wondered.

Besides, Moorhouse told town council this week, the incidents of
overdoses in Prescott have been rare, so far. In 2017, his department
responded to only one call for an overdose. In that case, firefighters
performed airway management and CPR protocols until paramedics arrived
minutes later.

Moorhouse said his department will review its naloxone decision if the
problem gets worse in Prescott.

He said the department would like to carry the antidote on its trucks
to protect firefighters accidentally exposed to opioids. But that
decision might make the department vulnerable to a lawsuit if
firefighters had naloxone for their own use but refused to treat an
overdose victim with it, he said.

In deciding not to carry naloxone, the Prescott department has good
company in Leeds and Grenville.

The volunteer departments in Elizabethtown-Kitley and in
Edwardsburgh/Cardinal have decided not to carry the drug for many of
the same reasons as Prescott.

Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Island have taken
a different tack - both fire departments and the town's police
department carry the drug.

Frontline OPP officers in Leeds and Grenville as in other parts of
Ontario carry naloxone for their own protection and for the public.

The antidote can reverse the harmful effects of an opioid-related
overdose for up to an hour, depending on the strength of the drug.

The Ontario Naloxone Program is trying to make the antidote more
widely available by offering free drug kits to police and fire
services and encouraging the departments to take them. The government
announced in early December that it would supply naloxone free to
Ontario's 447 fire departments and its 61 municipal police forces.
Naloxone is a "life-saving" drug that can temporarily reverse an
opioid overdose, the Ministry of Health said in announcing the free

As well, it is freely available at most pharmacies. The government
runs ads encouraging party-goers to carry the kits to gatherings where
opioids might be present.

In Ontario from May to July 2017, there were 336 opioid-related
deaths, which represents a 68-percent increase over the some period in

Chris Lloyd, the united counties' paramedic chief, said Leeds and
Grenville so far has bucked the provincial trend, reporting no deaths
during the same period. Local paramedics did respond to 14 drug
overdose calls and they administered naloxone nine times, he said. In
five of those cases, firefighters were on the scene as well, he said.
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