Firefighters may soon carry opiate antidote

Naloxone can reverse an overdose from heroin or fentanyl, but police officers and firefighters are currently prohibited from carrying it.

Naloxone can reverse an overdose from heroin or fentanyl.

Naloxone can reverse an overdose from heroin or fentanyl.

Firefighters may soon be allowed to carry a key life-saving antidote for someone who has overdosed.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake had been expected to announce last week that the province was mandating that firefighters carry naloxone, or Narcan, which when injected in an overdosing patient will quickly neutralize the effects of opiates, including heroin and fentanyl. The announcement was later cancelled, but is expected to take place at a later date.

Proponents say the legislation will save lives.

“Unnecessary deaths occur and we can prevent this,” Warm Zone outreach worker Erica Thompson told The News last summer.

In 2015, Abbotsford saw a number of people unwittingly ingest fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than morphine. The result is often death. According to Abbotsford Fire Chief Don Beer, firefighters attended 186 overdoses last year. Often, they were first on the scene.

Because a prescription is required to possess naloxone, firefighters, police officers and the family and friends of users haven’t been able to carry it, although the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control said last summer that Health Canada was reviewing those restrictions.

Workarounds have seen family and friends of users being trained in the antidote’s use.

The province is eventually expected to require all first responders to carry and be able to administer naloxone. That will eventually include police, but it’s expected training will be necessary, and law enforcement might use the nasal spray naloxone instead of injection.

– files from Kevin Diakiw/Black Press