Toronto firefighters are now equipped with a potentially life-saving tool to deal with opioid overdoses.
As of Oct. 4, fire trucks will now carry naloxone for use by trained firefighters to treat patients.
“The administration of Naloxone by trained TFS staff will enhance the level of service TFS provides to the public,” Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said in a media release.
“Acknowledging the urgent public health crisis across Canada and the marked increase in opioid-related emergencies in Ontario, TFS, in alignment with the current Tiered Response protocols, will enhance service delivery through the administration of Naloxone.”
As first reported by Global News, firefighters have been in training for the past several weeks 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.
In March, Toronto’s Board of Health endorsed moving ahead with the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, which included equipping first responders with naloxone.
The opioid strategy also included the development of prevention and response plans, overdose protocols, drug-checking programs, treatment on demand and supervised injection sites.
Toronto Public Health (TPH) has seen a significant increase in demand for naloxone kits with over 1,700 kits given out year-to-date.
Several bars and music venues in Toronto now stock naloxone kits and the Toronto Public Library plans to do the same.
An interim safe injection site is currently in operation in Toronto after harm reduction advocates set up an unsanctioned injection site in a city park.
The city is currently constructing three permanent supervised injection sites, but they won’t open until sometime later this fall.
At least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 and the country’s chief public health officer predicts that number will surpass 3,000 this year.
Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies in several provinces, including Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
The number of kits distributed through Toronto pharmacies has increased since they were made available by the province in July of last year, according to public health officials.
Close to 1,400 were handed out by Toronto pharmacies between January and March of this year, with another 1,039 distributed by Toronto Public Health during that time, the agency said.
Ontario launching opioid emergency task force
Ontario is establishing an opioid emergency task force to provide advice on how to combat the growing overdose crisis.
The provincial government says the task force will include front-line workers in harm reduction, addiction medicine, and community-based mental health and addiction services to provide what it describes as “critical insight about what is happening on the ground.”
It says the task force will support the province’s co-ordinated response to the crisis, which claimed the lives of 865 people in Ontario last year.
It will also advise the government on a targeted public education campaign to raise awareness about the risks associated with opioid use and how people can protect themselves from overdose.
— With files from Shallima Maharaj and the Canadian Press