Edmonton firefighters deploy naloxone nearly every other day as Alberta opioid crisis continues

Edmonton firefighters administered the opioid overdose antidote naloxone roughly ever other day from June to August, new numbers from the province show.

'The amount of overdose calls Edmonton Fire Rescue Services receives is troubling,' spokesperson says

Two vials of naloxone taken from a kit handed out at an Ottawa pharmacy on Aug. 16, 2017. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Edmonton firefighters administered naloxone almost every other day from June to August, new numbers from the province show.

The life-saving medication is used as an overdose antidote to opioids such as fentanyl, a powerful and often deadly narcotic.

Fire rescue staff in Edmonton used naloxone during 58 medical events from February to August, according to an Alberta Health report released August 16. Of those events, 27 occurred in the 61 days between June 8 and August 8.

"The amount of overdose calls Edmonton Fire Rescue Services receives is troubling," spokesperson Maya Filipovic wrote in an email to CBC News Thursday. 

"However, we are pleased that our crews are trained and equipped and ready to respond and help," she added.

"It is sad to note that that number of people have needed the injection this year, but our firefighters have arrived in a timely fashion and been able to assist in these overdose situations."

More than 600 dead

In Alberta, 609 people died from apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl between January 2016 and August 2017.

More than one-third of the deaths occurred in the first half of 2017.

To curb Alberta's opioid crisis, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the province is pushing for federal permission to open new supervised injection sites.

"When we get that approval, we'll make sure that Edmonton is up and operational as soon as possible," Hoffman told reporters at the Alberta legislature Thursday.

In May, Edmonton city council voted unanimously in favour of opening three supervised injection sites at local community centres.

Edmonton has accounted for one-third of the province's fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths in 2017. Most people who overdosed lived outside the city centre, according to the Alberta Health report.

Since January 2016, the number of overdose deaths in Alberta appears to have stabilized but remains significant, the report concludes.