Naloxone training planned for firefighters in Wellesley and Woolwich townships
Suspected overdose deaths so far in 2023 in region are higher than same time period in 2022
Firefighters in the townships of Wellesley and Woolwich are scheduled to be trained by the end of this year on how to administer naloxone in suspected overdose cases.
The move to equip firefighters with the drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose comes following an increase in suspected overdose deaths in Waterloo region, including Wellesley Township.
Wellesley Township fire chief Paul Redman says the problem may not be at the level it is in the big cities, but it is a serious and growing concern.
"Sure we're not having the number of overdoses on a daily call out that our peers in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge are, but we do have those. I mean those do filter out here," Redman said.
"One or two overdoses in a small community becomes a very visible issue and it shakes the people up."
There have been 13 suspected overdose deaths in Waterloo region between January 1 and March 3 of 2023. Of that 13, one was listed in Wellesley Township.
For the same time period in 2022, there were eight overdoses in the region with one listed in three of the townships: Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich, according to statistics provided by the Waterloo Regional Police Service.
Those statistics from 2022 are divided between fatal and nonfatal overdoses. The numbers indicate Wellesley had two fatal overdoses last year. In Wilmot, there was one fatal and one non-fatal and in Woolwich there was one fatal and three non-fatal overdoses. There were no stats from North Dumfries.
In 2017, the Ontario government announced naloxone kits would be made available by the province to police and fire services. Since then they've been used in various municipalities including Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.
Township of Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak says the issue has been on the minds of many people in the community. Some people have approached him at township events and said they want to rent space to train people on naloxone.
"It's an ugly situation," Nowak said. "I don't know how else to describe it. We'll do whatever we can from a municipal perspective to address the concerns of the community."
Naloxone kits aren't the only training concern in Wellesley. The firefighters will also be trained to administer EpiPens when called to an emergency involving a patient having an allergic reaction.
In Woolwich Township, deputy fire chief Craig Eveson says there have been conversations about training the 165 volunteer firefighters.
"It has not been a requirement for our organization to provide this service to the public," Eveson said. "But later this year our firefighters will be receiving training on administering naloxone as part of our regular first-aid/CPR training."