Windsor firefighters will soon be carrying naloxone kits to reverse overdoses

·2 min read

City council unanimously voted on Monday to direct the fire service to start carrying naloxone nasal spray kits.

The decision came after a motion was brought forward by Coun. Kieran McKenzie.

"The numbers bear out the fact that we should be looking at adding this particular service as part of the the toolkit, the broader toolkit that we have with respect to harm reduction," he said, adding that it's a service used by many other communities in Ontario.

Fire chief Stephen Laforet told city council he favoured the idea, noting that firefighters arrived first on scene of a suspected overdose before EMS 25 times last year. Naloxone can save lives when administered to someone who has overdosed on opioids. It temporarily reverses the effect of an overdose.

"Putting [naloxone] on the trucks right now is not a significant burden and there is potential to help somebody in the future with it. So based on that, at this point in time, I would put it on," he said.

Dan Taekema/CBC
Dan Taekema/CBC

Coun. Rino Bortolin said it's a "no-brainer" for all first responders to be carrying it across the region.

"Naloxone is not the end-all-be-all, but it's a no-brainer that we should have it," he said.

"Firefighters who are paid to respond to these types of events, who are trained, physically active and strong, capable people can easily be trained on how to address this."

"If it gets used once in five years, that once makes it more than worth it."

Laforet told city council it will cost $2,000 to train the fire department and will take about eight weeks.

A report to council stated that drug-related overdoses and deaths "continue to be growing problem in North America" particularly those related to opioids. The report said the annual rate of opioid-related deaths in Ontario increased 285 per cent between 1991 and 2015.

It said that 2018, there were 220 opioid-related emergency department visits in Windsor and Essex County. In 2019, there were 249, which is 3.2 times greater than the 78 opioid overdose ED visits in 2007.

In 2019, 47 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Council supports WPS to carry naloxone

Council also passed a motion advising the police that council was in favour of them carrying the life-saving drug as well, but not everyone was in favour of this, including Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

"Arming your police officers to attend medical calls as opposed to crime-related calls, the chief will have to make that decision," he said.

Coun. Fred Francis said he felt uncomfortable "micromanaging" the police board on what to do with respect to carrying naloxone.

Currently, Windsor police have officers with three units — detention, city centre patrol and problem-oriented policing — that have access to the drug.