Winnipeg city councillor wants naloxone nasal spray on transit buses
Kevin Klein says plan would reduce overdose deaths, not intended to make bus drivers 'pseudo-paramedics'
Allowing the life-saving naloxone nasal spray on Winnipeg Transit buses would help address the city's overdose crisis, according to one city councillor.
At Tuesday's infrastructure and public works meeting, Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) asked city staff to come back in 90 days with strategies for putting the naloxone nasal spray, sold under the brand name Narcan, on buses.
The drug is used to rapidly reverse the effects of an overdose. Klein is also asking for a plan to provide online training videos that will teach people how to administer the spray.
"Having it on buses isn't saying that drivers should become pseudo-paramedics," Klein said, but it is important to have it on buses to make it "available to community members, because nasal spray is easy to use."
Having the spray on buses would also make it more accessible to Winnipeggers, since the vehicles are moving about the city, Klein said.
He originally brought up the idea at a February city council meeting, where council rejected the idea of asking the federal government to decriminalize small amounts of illegal drugs within city limits.
Klein suggested having naloxone on buses as an alternative approach, but rescinded that motion before council discussed it.
On Tuesday, he said bringing the idea to the infrastructure and public works committee was a more effective way to make this happen.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service has been using the injection version of naloxone for more than two decades, but trained all WFPS paramedics to administer it in 2016 "in response to rising rates of opioid overdose," according to a city spokesperson.
The WFPS also hands out naloxone kits with the injection form as part of a harm reduction program. The service doesn't use the nasal form of the drug.
Logistics and liabilities
During the meeting, transit director Greg Ewankiw laid out what areas city staff would have to look into if this were to be implemented.
"The cost of the spray to be maintained on 640 buses; training for the operators who would have to use it at a cost; maintaining a supply on the buses; the current exemption for first aid kits on buses for our inability to keep them stocked, in part," said Ewankiw.
He also said the spray would have to be properly secured so children or others couldn't get at it. There are also several liabliity issues that would have to be addressed, including whether a driver used it improperly or failed to use it. There's also the risk of an allergic reaction, Ewankiw says.
The committee decided to refer the idea to the city's transit advisory committee. Their next meeting is June 9.