Doctor shocked at lack of naloxone kits in Windsor, police and fire chiefs respond
It's considered a tool to help curb opioid abuse deaths.
The province is making emergency naloxone kits available to all 500 police and fire services in Ontario.
But they are not being used yet by the police and fire departments in Windsor, and a world renowned-researcher on drug overdose thinks that is a mistake -- going so far as to call it “inexcusable.”
Doctor Mark Tyndall argues the kits have a big impact in reversing the number of opioid-related deaths.
The latest stats show more than 4,000 Canadians died from an accidental opioid overdose in 2017.
Tyndall, who spoke at a harm reduction conference in Chatham last month, says he is surprised to hear Windsor firefighters and police officers are not equipped with the live-saving drug.
“It’s so easy to use,” says Tyndall. “I can't understand why somebody, a first responder, would not feel that's the thing they need to do.”
Windsor's firefighting union agrees.
Keith Traquair is the President of the Windsor Professional Firefighters Association. He tells CTV News the number of calls for overdoses goes up every year.
Traquair adds they want to have naloxone to do their jobs properly.
Windsor police chief Al Frederick opposes the idea. He tells CTV News paramedic response times are quick and their medics are properly trained to deal with drug overdoses.
“There is only so much our officers can do,” says Frederick. “They are taxed and the more we download on them, the higher risk they have of not performing their duties up to the standards of our community.”
The city’s top cop is also concerned about liability. Last year, an Ontario police officer who provided naloxone to someone who later died was investigated by the Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s arms-length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
“That's not something other emergency personnel would have to put up with,” notes Frederick. “They would be getting accolades for attempting to save someone's life while we would be facing criminal jeopardy so I think there's a huge disparity.”
Chief Frederick says he won't make a final decision on whether the force will apply for provincial funding to get the kits until there is legislation protecting his officers from SIU investigations and potential punishment for trying to save a life.
Windsor Fire Chief Steve Laforet says it’s not a simple process to implement naloxone kits into firefighter response, as there is lots of training involved.
But he hopes to have a recommendation for city council within the next two to three months.
Essex-Windsor EMS Deputy Chief Justin Lammers says local paramedics administered naloxone, which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, to 99 patients in 2017.
He says each responding agency is going to have to determine what works for them and their response.
Lammers also says police officers and firefighters need to be taught proper airway management and training before they start giving naloxone to patients.