Toronto firefighters will soon have a new and potentially life-saving tool at their disposal.
As of the end of this week, nearly 800 firefighters have been trained to administer naloxone in its nasal spray form. Toronto Fire Services worked closely with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre to establish guidelines on how and when to use the drug on those who need it.
“We are more often than not the first ones on scene,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jim Jessop. “Our goal is to make sure we can administer this life-saving drug, if required.”
The initial cost to equip firefighters with the drug is less than $50,000. Jessop estimated it will cost roughly $25,000 annually to maintain.
“[There will be] one active kit per truck. There will be a number of spares at the hall and then additional spares located at both the district chief and platoon chief offices,” he explained.
Global News was given an exclusive look at how crews are preparing. The kits are expecting to be in place citywide by Oct. 2. By that point, nearly 3,000 firefighters will have been trained.
Currently, firefighters in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have naloxone as part of their first aid arsenal. Police in Vancouver do as well, but law enforcement in Toronto do not.
“The paramedical staff that we have in Toronto is, by far, the most robust in the country and they are in attendance with us all of the time,” said Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders when asked about the issue.
Meanwhile, Toronto Public Library is signaling its intent to train staff and keep naloxone on hand.
“We are a public space and we have Torontonians in all of our spaces and this is a crisis that is affecting all Torontonians,” said Pam Ryan, director of service development and innovation.
The topic is back on the table Monday at the library’s next public meeting. They said they have been given a quote of $145 per naloxone kit.
“We have over 550 staff who do have first aid training. They will be offered the opportunity to take the naloxone administration training and I think at this point, we’re expecting they will be given naloxone following that training to be used in the branch.”
Toronto Public Health (TPH) has seen a significant increase in demand for naloxone kits. Shaun Hopkins, manager of The Works, told Global News they have given out over 1,700 kits year-to-date.
TPH has received requests for information, training and kits from bar owners, security guards, university staff and families looking to help a loved one they suspect may be dealing with substance abuse.
Public health staff are also assisting with Toronto Public Library’s training.
In 2016, firefighters in Vancouver were among the first in British Columbia to carry and administer naloxone.
“Opioid use and opiod overdoses happen in all portions of the population,” said Joe Acker, director of patient care delivery for Vancouver and coastal districts with B.C. Emergency Health Services.
“I would recommend that anybody who works with large groups of people – whether it’s a community service responder, somebody even in churches, in schools – has access to naloxone.”
Acker told Global News the B.C. Ambulance Service has responded to 22,000 overdoses in the last year. Firefighters provide crucial support during those calls.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.