Winnipeg police officers are now armed with tools to save someone in the grips of a fentanyl overdose.
The province has put up $30,000 to pay for 1,500 naloxone kits for Winnipeg police officers and other municipal forces.
"As fentanyl becomes more prevalent, we have all learned tragically that seconds matter when it comes to saving a life," Manitoba Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said Monday.
The kits will allow officers to administer the life-saving opioid antidote, which can at least temporarily bring someone in the middle of an overdose back from the brink of death.
Police are frequently the first to respond to emergency calls, which is why it's important they are trained and able to spot the signs of an overdose and give the life-saving drug, Stefanson said.
"To make a meaningful impact and to save lives, there is no single solution. We all need to work together," Stefanson said.
Politicians, police and emergency responders have described the current opioid situation in Winnipeg as a crisis and an epidemic in recent months. There had been at least 24 confirmed opioid-related deaths this year in Manitoba as of Nov. 22.
The province launched a social media awareness campaign in response that is meant to spread the word about the risks of fentanyl and carfentanil. The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg launched is own similar campaign a week earlier.
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"I really look at this as a health issue and education and awareness are going to be key planks in helping us deal with fentanyl," Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said.
About 700 officers have already received naloxone training with more on the way, Smyth said.
Smyth said it's clear based on the nine overnight overdose deaths that happened in Vancouver on the weekend that the problem reaches far outside of Winnipeg.
Municipal and First Nations police services across Manitoba will get 200 of the kits paid for by the province, Stefanson said.
Brandon police Chief Ian Grant said officers face danger every day on the job, but the potency of drugs such as fentanyl at crime scenes leaves them vulnerable in a whole different way.
"Having this tool will greatly enhance the safety of all of our officers, who may be exposed during the course of their duties, but it's also another tool they can use to try and save lives," said Grant, who is also president of the Manitoba Chiefs of Police.
Inspector Max Waddell demonstrates how the Naloxone kit will be used by officers pic.twitter.com/i4wzwjk8dS— @wpgpolice