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Opioid crisis: Calgary firefighters now equipped with lifesaving naloxone kits

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WATCH ABOVE: Calgary is leading the way in giving more people on the front lines the equipment needed to take action in the war of fentanyl. As Tracy Nagai reports, Calgary firefighters are now outfitted with naloxone kits – Dec 20, 2016

In the face of a major opioid crisis in Calgary, firefighters now have a proven tool in the war against fentanyl, Global News learned Tuesday.

“Within 12 hours of putting it in our trucks, we’ve used it twice–successfully both times,” said Calgary Fire Chief Steve Dongworth in an exclusive interview with Global’s Tracy Nagai.

Last Monday, naloxone kits were rolled out at fire stations across the city. Designated trucks now carry two units and 1,300 front line workers have been trained.

“About 50 per cent of our call volume is medical calls and about 50 per cent of the calls we go to, we arrive before an ambulance,” Dongworth explained.

READ MORE: Fentanyl overdose paralyzes Calgary teen – ‘he has a life sentence now’

The Calgary Fire Department designed its own $40,000 program which includes an online and hands-on component that can be completed well within a day.

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“Our people have embraced it very much and also from that aspect of for their own protection, as well,” Dongworth said.

Mike Carter, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, agrees there’s plenty of benefits.

“If our members are exposed, they can be affected by the chemical, so having this medication allows us to treat our members, as well.”

The kits contain a nasal spray which reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids like heroine, fentanyl and carfentanil.

READ MORE: ‘We are in the middle of a crisis’ – fentanyl focus of two-day Calgary conference

Alberta Health statistics show from January to September 2016, more than 190 people died from fentanyl overdoses in Alberta.

In the same period last year, more than 200 lives were claimed by the opioid and Calgary firefighters are seeing the increase first-hand.

“Opioid overdoses are becoming more and more of an issue in our community. We’ve seen a 40 per cent increase since 2015,” Dongworth said.

READ MORE: Fentanyl 101 – The facts and dangers

The training program is expected to be used across the province. Dongworth said Calgary has already been approached by other fire departments.

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“Edmonton has just been talking to us in the last few days. It’s the city [of Calgary] responding to an emerging issue.”

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