Windsor police will soon equip some officers with life-saving naloxone

Windsor police will soon allow some officers to carry the drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, according to police board member and city councillor Rino Bortolin. 

The news comes as Windsor-Essex sees an increase in overdose cases over the last week

Some Windsor officers to be equipped with naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Windsor police will soon equip some officers with the life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, according to police board member and city councillor Rino Bortolin. 

Following Thursday's police board meeting, where Bortolin inquired about any updates to having officers carry naloxone, he told CBC News that police chief Pam Mizuno said she approved officers patrolling the detention cells inside Windsor Police Service headquarters to carry the drug. 

The naloxone kits have not yet been issued and it's not yet clear when they will be. 

The Windsor Police Service is one of the few police departments in Ontario that doesn't equip its officers with naloxone, even as the number of opioid-related overdoses has risen over the years. Mizuno has previously said the data doesn't support the need to issue naloxone to officers.

"They're looking at [equipping] other patrols, specifically the ones that would be dealing with the high incident areas and the patrols that would be dealing with those situations," Bortolin said.

He added that he doesn't think education officers going into schools will carry it, but that the "ones on the street, the ones who are going to be responding to such calls, they will all be equipped with it." 

In response to why officers in the detention cells were the first to be approved, rather than community officers, Bortolin said "in this specific scenario in the holding cell, it was difficult and would take longer for EMS to arrive." 

He added that the delay was because of the different security measures in place. 

Councillor and police board member Rino Bortolin says while the news is good, he wants to see the region discuss more long-term solutions to the problem. (Jason Viau/CBC)

In comparison, Bortolin said Mizuno has found that community officers have an easier time getting EMS to respond to the scene. 

But, an investigation by CBC News found that in some cases officers are waiting a number of minutes before EMS arrives with naloxone. 

According to Windsor police reports that describe when officers have responded to an incident and naloxone was administered, two officers were patrolling the riverfront in September 2019 when they noticed a woman in "medical distress."

They requested paramedics, and 39 minutes after they found her, naloxone was administered, according to the police report. 

Last week, CBC News also reported that Windsor police were the first to respond to at least 14 overdose calls where naloxone was needed but they didn't have the drug on hand because they aren't permitted to carry it. 

At the time, Windsor Police Association president Shawn McCurdy told CBC News that he was pushing for all front-line officers to have the drug and that some currently do, even though it's not sanctioned. 

'Band-aid' solution

While Bortolin said this is good news, he hopes this will help them move on to more long-term solutions to the crisis the region has been dealing with.

"Let's now start talking about why is the province not giving more money for beds, for treatment in addiction services? We really need to be talking about solutions to this problem, not the band-aids ... [like] treating things with naloxone," he said.  

"What we should be talking about is what kind of investment and what kind of resources are we putting into addictions services. We should be looking to reduce the number of addictions in the first place." 

Paramedics and first responders work to save a person suspected of having a drug overdose. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Nine substance misuses and overdoses in 24 hours

This news comes as the Windsor Essex County Health Unit put out an overdose alert Thursday following 11 opioid overdoses that took place within the week of Oct. 13 and Oct. 20. Eight of these involved fentanyl, according to the alert. 

It continued to say that in a 24-hour period on Tuesday there were nine substance misuse and overdose related emergency room visits.

And this isn't the only time this year that the region has seen these sorts of numbers 

In May, June and July more people arrived at the local emergency department due to an overdose compared to 2018 and 2019, and significantly higher than the average between 2012 and 2017, according to the health unit.

The worst month for overdoses this year was July — 39 people were taken to Windsor Regional Hospital. That's compared to 16 in 2018 and 15 last year.

Bortolin said he expects that the police chief will make an announcement in the coming weeks of other units that will also receive the drug. 


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