First responders better equipped to treat opioid overdoses
Rod MacDonald says he is glad that Prince Edward Island’s first responders now have a valuable tool to help people who have overdosed on dangerous opioid drugs.
This fall, Island medical first responders, firefighters and police departments received kits containing naloxone – a medicine used to counteract the effects of the potent drugs.
“If a firefighter finds an opiate overdose this kit could be the difference in whether a member of the public might live or die,” said MacDonald, who is chief of the East River Fire Company and president of the PEI Firefighters Association. He said he was pleased to be able to work with government partners – including the Department of Health and Wellness, Health PEI, and the Department of Justice and Public Safety – on the initiative.
Naloxone has been part of the paramedic toolkit for years, but this expansion puts the medicine in the hands of more first-response services. Providing these kits to emergency personnel increases their ability to recognize and manage overdoses and to save lives.
MacDonald said these kits also protect emergency workers from accidental exposure while to the drugs.
Corporal Jennifer Driscoll of Summerside City Police said her department has provided its members with naloxone kits and training this year.
“By equipping police with these kits, they are better able to potentially save the life of an overdose victim and protect themselves at the same time,” she said. “Any time the police are provided with life-saving tools that are designed to protect others and themselves, this is always a good thing.”
All Island fire departments have been issued kits containing a syringe pre-loaded with naloxone and are now in the process of training members. All hospitals, emergency departments, health teams in provincial correctional facilities, opioid replacement clinics, emergency medical services, and police (both RCMP and municipal) are now equipped with naloxone.
Naloxone kits may also be purchased by individuals at pharmacies (no prescription is required). A pilot program begun June 2107 provides free take home Naloxone kits to clients of the PEI Needle Exchange Program.