Sharing overdose data from fire paramedic service could potentially save lives, committee says

Supervised consumption sites for Winnipeg may be months or more away; in the meantime there is hope the WFPS can share data on overdoses to help warn of dangerous drugs making the rounds.

Information would be sent to community organizations to warn of lethal drugs circulating in neighbourhoods

Effort to report on overdoses could be in place well before a community organization is able to build a supervised consumption site. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah/The Associated Press)

A city committee has an idea to rapidly send data on drug overdoses collected by members of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) to organizations working on the streets — and hopefully prevent some overdoses.

Snapshots of where the overdoses are happening, what the effects are and from which drugs could make a big difference, the chair of the chair of the city's protection and community services committee hopes.

"That information can save lives with respect to either telling people there's a bad batch going around in the neighborhood. So make sure that you're doing a little less of it or maybe not at all," said Coun. Sherri Rollins(Fort-Rouge East Fort Garry). 

The committee voted unanimously today to ask the WFPS to review if such an information-sharing system is possible.

Coun. Sherri Rollins (Fort-Rouge East Fort Garry) says this type of information sharing can make a difference in real time. (CBC )

Rollins says the the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network and other organizations have asked for the city to share the data.

She says it's the type of information that has the opportunity to disrupt lethal drug use and make a difference quickly. 

"When data is shared [in] real time, it can make a real-time difference in lives of people who are using drugs and how they might consume it differently or not at all." Rollins said. 

The committee also voted Monday to lay over until the fall a detailed report about supervised consumption sites in order to allow community organizations to consider a response.The Progressive Conservative government has been reluctant to fund such a facility, despite them operating in most other Canadian provinces. 

Rollins told CBC News the idea of having the WFPS provide data on overdoses was not something put in place because the possibility of a supervised consumption site was months or more than a year away.

"I wouldn't call it a stop-gap measure. I absolutely would call it low hanging fruit on just the basic thing we could do with data. The city already collects real time data that can make a real difference in disrupting overdose, toxic and toxicity and death," Rollins said. 

Manitoba has seen a massive surge in overdoses, reporting 372 fatalities in 2020; an increase of 87 per cent from the previous year. 

CBC News has asked the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network for comment on the initiative.