Several Montreal fire trucks now have a new piece of equipment that many firefighters started using earlier this spring.
It’s a naloxone kit, an antidote to opioid overdoses, that the city says is vital to saving lives.
“We now have an additional tool that will help us restore somebody’s breathing on their own,” says Richard Liebmann, deputy director of the Montreal Fire Department.
“Every one of out 1,725 first responders will be trained with naloxone.
The first responders are being taught by Urgences-Santé paramedics, and so far more than 1,500 have been trained. They began issuing the kits end of March and the training has come in handy.
“Since we started using naloxone, we’re at over a dozen calls where we’ve administered naloxone, of which at least 10 of them the patient started breathing on their own by the time paramedics arrived,” Liebman tells Global News.
WATCH: (Sept. 19, 2018) Naloxone kits and how to use them
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says though there is no crisis in the city yet, it’s still important for the firefighters to have this training in addition to paramedics.
“Summer is here, there’s going to be festivals, people are going to be celebrating, and maybe there’re more people interested in using drugs,” she says, but quickly adds, “First of all, don’t.”
But cases of opioid overdoses are on the rise. According to the Canadian government, there were 424 apparent opioid-related deaths in Quebec in 2018, almost doubling that of each of the last two years. That’s why one naloxone advocate says that while the training is a good first step, more needs to be done.
“The real first responders are the people that make the call,” explains Richard Davy, a student of Social Work at McGill University. “When we consider how quickly someone can lose brain function without oxygen, these are the people that still need to be trained on how to use naloxone.”
He has taken it on himself to give free lessons on how to use the kit, and wants to see the city push more public awareness campaigns so people understand how important it is know how to use the kit.
Because by the time firefighter first responders get to a patient, he says, it may be too late.