As Toronto officials continue to respond to a recent spike of fatal overdose deaths in the city, paramedics say 30 people were taken to hospital with drug overdoses amid new safety measures put in place at this year’s Veld Music Festival.
Toronto Paramedic Services Supt. Kim McKinnon told Global News Tuesday crews were called to the Downsview Park venue to take the patients to hospital. She said they were taken in minor to serious, but non-life-threatening condition.
McKinnon said despite that number, it’s in line with what paramedics have seen at similar-sized festivals.
“It’s usually in the tens for an event where there are thousands of people, so I wouldn’t say there are more or less (at Veld),” she said, adding the surrounding ambulance stations in North York had extra paramedics on duty in case there were calls to 911.
In the lead up to this year’s event, Veld’s parent company INK Entertainment said it would allow visitors to carry naloxone in either injectable or spray form so long as they reported it to private on-site medical staff. The drug is used to reverse overdose effects.
The Toronto Paramedic Service first started issuing naloxone to its advanced over a year ago, but McKinnon said in anticipation of the opioid overdose crisis out west and harm reduction programs locally all 1,200 paramedics were issued the drug.
McKinnon said naloxone, which can help prevent fatalities, is administered approximately 100 times a year out of 350,000 calls for service.
“It doesn’t sound like a big number, but when we’re prepared to help one person … one death is too many in our opinion,” she said.
McKinnon said Toronto Paramedics were encouraged by the organizer’s policy on naloxone and encouraged everyone to be prepared.
“Anything that can reduce the harm or reduce the life-threatening situation, and if you’re going to take illegal drugs or medications, to be prepared is a good thing,” she said.
Late last month Toronto police issued multiple warnings about drugs possibly laced with fentanyl. Six people died of suspected overdoses and 20 were taken to hospital in a three-day period. McKinnon said she wasn’t able to comment if any of the overdoses at Veld were linked to contaminated drugs.
Officials recently said they are working to implement initiatives in the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, which called for quicker access to naloxone, opening supervised injection sites and improved public education.
With files from Jessica Patton and David Shum