Windsor firefighters and police not carrying naloxone despite free kits from province

Firefighters and police officers in Windsor have no plans to start carrying naloxone despite a commitment from the provincial government to provide overdose antidote kits free of charge.

There were 336 opioid-related deaths in Ontario between May and July 2017

Ontario's health minister said Thursday that the province will pay for naloxone anti-overdose kits for fire and police services. (CBC)

Firefighters and police officers in Windsor have no plans to start carrying naloxone despite a commitment from the provincial government to provide overdose antidote kits free of charge.

Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-term Care and Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced Thursday they would offer the drug that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose to all 61 police services across the province and 447 municipal fire departments.

The pledge is in response to the ongoing opioid crisis that killed 336 people in the province between May and July 2017.

But Windsor Fire and Rescue Service Deputy Chief Andrea DeJong said after discussions with the region's EMS crews "we've decided we're not carrying them."

Windsor Fire and Rescue Service Deputy Chief Andrea DeJong says staffing levels are being maintained. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"We don't typically inject or provide any drugs," she added. "Typically in such a tight urban area EMS is meeting us at the scene either before us or very, very shortly after us."

Windsor police are also not carrying naloxone, according to Sgt. Steve Betteridge despite the fact the opioid use is "a national concern and we're kidding ourselves if we think it's not in our city, because it is." 

Policies could change

The force is also working with other first responders in the city to determine who might be best equipped to carry the potentially lifesaving drugs.

"Any time a police service considers having a standard issue piece of equipment for any officer, that is never a quick decision. It's something that receives, rightfully so, a considerable amount of attention and study," he explained.

If police were to be equipped with the kits, they would only use them after receiving training and eduction, Betteridge said.

DeJong said the decision from Windsor fire is also not permanent and emergency services in the city will continue to monitor the situation.

"It's not that we've said we are not going to do it by any stretch, that could change next week if there was some very significant event that flips the switch to us utilizing it."