Municipal police officers in P.E.I. are now carrying the antidote to fentanyl, the deadly opioid that has caused an epidemic of fatal overdoses in Canada.
Although Island RCMP have been carrying the kits since late last year, police in Charlottetown and Summerside took delivery of dosages of antidote Thursday afternoon.
"Police services are trying to get out front of this," said Deputy Chief Gary McGuigan in Charlottetown. "We want to be prepared in order to protect the public and also to protect police should they come across the fentanyl and accidentally be exposed to it."
The four-milligram packets of the drug, known as naloxone, will be carried on the duty belts of frontline police officers. One dose of naloxone, administered as a single-dose nasal spray, can restore breathing and consciousness in a person that has overdosed on fentanyl or other opioid drugs.
On P.E.I., illicit use of fentanyl has been linked to two deaths over the past five years. Western Canada has seen an alarming rise in overdoses.
P.E.I.'s premier addressed the issue in the legislature Thursday.
"The key to success is collaboration," said Wade MacLaughlin. "We must work with health, police and community partners."
The Opposition called for all first responders to be equipped with the antidote.
"There's no talk about equipping the fire departments with the naloxone kits," Conservative MLA James Aylward told the legislature. "Fundamentally, that's where we need to get to. We need to make sure that the first responders that are quite often on the scene first are trained and have the access to save lives before it is too late."
Island paramedics are equipped with naloxone and it's also at the ready inside P.E.I.'s provincial jail.
Some municipal officers, including officers with Charlottetown police, had already completed their training in using naloxone and began carrying the drug Thursday afternoon.
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