Montreal universities prepare for worst, train staff to administer fentanyl antidote

UQAM and McGill have already taken steps to prepare for potential opioid overdoses on campus.

UQAM, McGill have already taken steps to prepare for potential opioid overdoses on campus

An injection of naloxone can prevent death due to a heroin, morphine or fentanyl overdose. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The fall session at Montreal's universities has been underway for less than a month, but administrators are already starting to plan for the worst as cases of fentanyl overdose continue to rise in the city.

Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) has already started training security agents and staff to administer the life-saving opioid overdose antidote, naloxone.

The school hopes to train 100 personnel — they're just waiting on access to the kits that can prevent death from a heroin, morphine or fentanyl overdose.

"They have the knowledge to intervene now, there is just the supply chain to figure out," said Jean-François Champagne, UQAM's security director.

In the wake of a spike of drug overdoses across the city, a doctor with Montreal Public Health called fentanyl's growing presence in the city a "public health emergency."

The Quebec coroner's office reported this month that 24 confirmed cases of drug overdoses, and 12 deaths possibly connected to drug overdoses, have occurred since Aug. 1 in Montreal.

'A devastating drug'

McGill University is also planning ahead, with Deputy Provost Ollivier Dyens calling the current situation "worrisome."

He says the administration hopes to train security, residence employees and other community members to use the antidote in order to prevent any loss of life.

"It's a devastating drug. We're talking about a population of 40,000 students," said Dyens.

The Quebec government announced Sept. 13 that naloxone will soon be free and accessible in pharmacies across the province in an effort to prevent a full-blown fentanyl crisis.

Spokespeople from Université de Montréal and Concordia University both confirmed that the institutions were monitoring the situation closely and working on coming up with a response.

In addition to schools preparing their staff, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre recently announced police and firefighters will be equipped with naloxone kits on top of paramedics, who have been carrying them for years.

With files from Radio-Canada's Jean-Philippe Robillard