Saskatoon

Saskatoon firefighters now carrying kits to combat fentanyl overdoses

Firefighters in Saskatoon will now be provided with special kits to battle the effects of a powerful drug.

Naloxone kits becoming more common as means to prevent deaths

Naloxone kits like this will now be carried by Saskatoon firefighters. (CBC News)

Firefighters in Saskatoon will now be provided with special kits to battle the effects of a powerful drug.

Naloxone kits are now being used across the country to counteract the effects of a fentanyl or other opioid overdose. Fentanyl has been blamed for a number of overdose deaths over the past several years.

According to Saskatchewan's Office of the Chief Coroner, death investigations confirmed fentanyl was a factor in 12 overdose deaths in Saskatoon in 2015. No concluded investigations have yet been recorded for last year.

Firefighters believe the Naloxone kits will save lives.

"We're very resilient, and we want to be ready for this," said assistant fire chief Rob Hogan. "Firefighters are well-positioned and very able to deliver this medication."

Fentanyl is a very powerful drug — 100 times more powerful than morphine. Another similar drug, carfentanil, is 100 times stronger than fentanyl.

As a result, emergency workers are concerned about accidental overdoses through contact with the drugs. Hogan said even exposure to residue or powder could kill a paramedic.

"There was an incident in Winnipeg, where firefighters had to administer naloxone to themselves," he said. "That's one of the reasons why we are carrying it."

Hogan said fentanyl is much more prevalent in other areas of the country, but believes the drug is becoming more common.

The fire department's paramedics are licensed to give naloxone through the Saskatchewan College of Paramedics. The Saskatoon Health Region has also signed off on the plan.

Firefighters began carrying naloxone kits on Monday.

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