Toronto police begin deploying naloxone to battle opioid overdoses

Toronto police say they have started to phase in the deployment of naloxone by uniformed officers in the city's downtown core.

Uniformed police join paramedics, firefighters in carrying the potentially life-saving drug

Over 1,000 Toronto police officers will have naloxone on their utility belt, the Toronto Police Service announced Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Toronto police say they have started to phase in the deployment of naloxone by uniformed officers in the city's downtown core — the potentially life-saving medication that can temporarily block the effects of opioids and prevent overdose deaths.

Police say specialized squads, including the Emergency Task Force, Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force, Drug Squad and Police Dog Services, will all have access to naloxone. All supervisors and sergeants in Toronto will also be included in the first phase of deployment. 

"A phased rollout assists in alleviating public and officer concerns regarding opioid safety issues, particularly in neighbourhoods surrounding supervised consumption sites," Toronto Police Service Inspector Paul MacIntyre said in a news release.

"It's important we provide our members with this lifesaving drug until medical assistance is available." 

The announcement comes in the midst of what some are calling an epidemic of opioid overdoses on the streets of the city. A study released in April suggests opioid-related deaths tripled in Ontario between 2001 and 2015. 

Overdose service calls are up from 903 at this time in 2017 to 1,024 so far this year, police say.
Police estimate that over 1,000 officers will have naloxone on their utility belt. Toronto Fire and paramedics, who are already equipped with naloxone. 

"Uniformed members, in this first phase of deployment, will be able to help those who find themselves in an overdose situation, by administering naloxone, then helping them get the follow-up medical attention they will need once consciousness is regained," MacIntyre said.

The police's deployment of naloxone will target the downtown core, where they say overdose calls are the highest.