Hamilton firefighters will start carrying Naloxone kits for overdose victims

The city of Hamilton's Board of Health agreed that Hamilton fire trucks should carry Naloxone kits on them.

The Hamilton Fire Department will need approximately 66 naloxone kits

Hamilton firefighters will now carry life-saving naloxone kits to help prevent opioid overdose deaths.

With firefighters often the first emergency responders to arrive at the scene of an overdose, the move, approved by the board of health Monday, adds new resources to the fight against the growing opioid crisis.

In 2017, 70 people died due to opioid-related causes between January and October in Hamilton.

In the first three months of 2018, there have been 42 suspected opioid-related overdoses.

The sad part is we've recently seen a spike in  opioid  deaths.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

"I do appreciate fire is going to be administrating this," Mayor Fred Eisenberger said during Monday's meeting.

In late January the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services launched an expansion of the Ontario Naloxone Plan (ONP) to include police and fire services. 

Hamilton Fire Departments will need roughly 66 kits, with each kit containing two doses of naloxone, said the Board of Public Health's recommendation report.

Last year, firefighters went to 234 calls where an overdose was suspected.

"The sad part is we've recently seen a spike in opioid deaths," Eisenberger said to the committee.

Naloxone works as an opiate antidote to temporarily reverse the effects of opioid narcotics. A dose knocks the opiods out of the brain's receptors. When applied, the antidote takes about five minutes to reverse the opioids, giving paramedics and firefighters enough time to get a patient to an emergency room. 

In 2017, 1700 naloxone kits were distributed across Hamilton by the Public Health Services staff. It says 453 of the kits were used on people with a suspected opioid overdose.  

Hamilton fire trucks have already been in possession of naloxone kits for a few months already says Claudio Mostacci, public information officer for the department. However those kits were for use on firefighters only.

Hamilton police still won't commit to carrying the lifesaving drug.

Police chief Eric Girt has argued in the past that paramedics are best equipped to carry naloxone kits, not front-line officers.

Although officers have requested the use of naloxone kits for their own safety, the decision to supply the lifesaving kits to Hamilton police is still a no.

However, Halton police are taking advantage of the province's free supply of naloxone kits. 

"Halton police will be carrying kits with them," Coun. Terry Whitehead said during Monday's meeting.

The Halton region experienced an epidemic in opioid-related deaths in the spring of 2017 when eight people died due to overdoses.

Since then, Halton police have seen a decrease in overdoses throughout their region.

"I just hope our police services arrive at the same conclusion that if they can save one life it's worth the exercise," said Whitehead.