London

31 people have died from opioid overdoses in London this year: EMS

Adam Bennett, the operations superintendent of Middlesex-London EMS, says paramedics have responded to 438 overdose calls this year, and have given 161 people a total of 219 doses of naloxone.

There's overlap in the numbers reported by different organizations, says EMS official

A Middlesex-London ambulance in downtown London, Ont. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

31 people have died from opioid-related overdoses so far in 2019, according to Middlesex-London EMS. 

Adam Bennett, the operations superintendent of Middlesex-London EMS, said paramedics have responded to 438 overdose calls this year, and have given 161 people a total of 219 doses of naloxone.

The numbers cannot be compounded with figures from other organizations, he explained, because multiple parties might respond to a particular emergency.

"It's possible that one patient could have received administration [of naloxone] from a bystander, a police officer and a paramedic," he said.

Middlesex-London EMS operations superintendent Adam Bennett says there's overlap in the number of overdoses and naloxone administrations by police, EMS, and community organizations -- because they all might respond to the same call. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

London police issued a media release Tuesday, saying that officers had given a total of 192 doses of naloxone to 111 people this year.

Eight of those people died and 103 survived – which makes for a 92-per cent success rate, said police. Of those 111 people, police say 84 were male and 27 were female.

Officers, cadets, and special constables began carrying naloxone, which temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, in June 2018.

In the final six months of 2018, officers gave naloxone to 59 people – two of whom died.

Though the numbers from police seem to reflect a consistent number of overdoses from 2018 to 2019, Bennett says paramedics are noticing a downward trend.

"I'm not going to say 100-per cent that it's going down … but it seems to be trending down from what it was several months ago."

Shelters, outreach teams, and supervised consumption site report 437 overdoses

Police, firefighters, and eligible community organizations get naloxone kits from the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

Shaya Dhinsa, the health unit's manager of sexual health, says they've given out more than 4,000 kits this year.

The city's police force and fire department aren't expected to report back on the number of overdoses they've responded to, but community organizations are, she said.

Shaya Dhinsa is the manager of sexual health at the Middlesex London Health Unit. (Shaya Dhinsa/Middlesex London Health Unit)

Shelters, outreach teams, withdraw management programs, community access centres, and the supervised consumption site have reported a total of 437 overdoses in 2019, Dhinsa said.

"That's a pretty large number, and it speaks to the importance of having naloxone in the community," she said, noting that the health unit instructs community organizations to call 911 before delivering the drug.

Each naloxone kit has two doses inside, and Dhinsa said she might give a client two kits if they disclose using a stronger kind of opioid, like fentanyl.

"They might not be using alone… or someone might need four [doses] themselves, depending on how much of the opioid they ingested or injected."

Paramedics might not use naloxone at all

While some people might need multiple doses of naloxone to overcome an overdose, Bennett says paramedics might not use naloxone at all.

"The way that police deal with an overdose and the way that the public deals with an overdose is a lot different than the way a paramedic deals with an overdose," he explained.

"There might be other supportive measures that are done instead. That's simply based on the medical directives that paramedics work under, and a higher level of training. That's just not part of a policing job. That's why paramedics are paramedics."

Ontario Provincial Police also recently released statistics for the number of times its officers used naloxone.

Since its frontline officers began carrying the drug in September 2017 and November 2019, OPP say they've saved 102 lives using naloxone.

66-per cent of those people were male and 34-per cent were female. The average age was 31.5 for women and 32 for men.

Most incidents happened inside a home, with the majority of overdoses happening within the OPP's Central and West Regions.

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