Windsor police 'not slamming the door' on carrying naloxone kits, says police chief

Windsor police chief Pam Mizuno said Thursday that she's "not slamming the door" on the idea of officers under her command carrying naloxone kits.

In the meantime, however, Windsor police officers will continue to avoid carrying kits

Windsor police chief Pam Mizuno addressed naloxone kits and supervised injections sites, while speaking after a Windsor Police Sevices Board meeting Thursday. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Windsor police chief Pam Mizuno said that she's "not slamming the door" on the idea of officers under her command carrying naloxone kits, while speaking after a Windsor Police Services Board meeting Thursday.

In the meantime, however, she said Windsor police officers will continue to avoid carrying the kits commonly used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.

"It is a medical crisis. It's a medical response and it's best served by EMS," Mizuno said. "If the landscape changes, and if our situation changes, we're constantly going to assess, and if need be, we will issue naloxone."

She added that current data doesn't support the need to issue naloxone kits to police officers "at this point in time."

Mizuno's predecessor Al Frederick was a staunch opponent of issuing naloxone kits to Windsor police officers, defending his position by highlighting that medical professionals should be responsible for issuing medical care. 

Bruce Chapman, president of the Police Association of Ontario said earlier this year that "it's frustrating and it's disappointing from a provincial standpoint," that Windsor police continue to avoid carrying naloxone.

Windsor police chief addresses supervised injection sites

Windsor's current police chief also commented on possible supervised injection sites in the city, stating that "there are concerns with crime rates possibly rising in the area and public safety in the area."

"Obviously there are concerns the health unit is exploring … and doing consultations with respect to supervised injection sites," said Mizuno.

Mizuno said that Windsor police is a "partner" in the Windsor community, explaining that it's up to the city officials to permit supervised injection sites. 

"If a supervised injection site is permitted and granted in our area, we work with the health unit and we'll work with other community partners so that it will be a success in our communities," she said. 

A recent survey conducted by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) revealed that 61 per cent of the approximately 2,500 residents surveyed supported establishing a supervised injection site in Windsor. 

'We need help,' says resident

Lisa Whitehead, a member of the Moms Stop the Harm anti-substance abuse support network, said officers should be required to carry naloxone.

"We need help," she said. "Right now, we're in the middle of an epidemic. People are dying … [naloxone] is our only life-saving way right now."

Lisa Whitehead is part of the Moms Stop the Harm anti-substance abuse support network. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Whitehead added that Mizuno's suggestion that Windsor police could be issued naloxone kits in the future doesn't give her hope in the present. 

"Why is it not being addressed right now?" said Whitehead. "Why is there nobody saying anything right now?"

Additionally, Whitehead said that opposition to supervised injection sites is "crazy, because it's saving lives."

"There is so much documentation that proves that it's lifesaving," she said.

Supervised injection sites work in other communities, says Downtown Mission

Rev. Ron Dunn, who serves as the executive director of the Downtown Mission, said he was disappointed when he heard that Mizuno wouldn't revise her predecessors policies on naloxone kits.

"I really had hoped with a change of leadership that we would have a reversal of the decision to not carry naloxone," he said, adding that his own organization has used naloxone to revive individuals who overdosed 24 times. "It works, and for the police service to choose not to carry it, even for their own safety, it's disappointing."

Rev. Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, says he's not surprised by police chief Pam Mizuno's comments. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Dunn said he wasn't surprised by Mizuno's comments on supervised injection sites. 

He said he hoped the Windsor Police Services Board would participate in upcoming community consultations on supervised injection sites planned by WECHU.

"Ultimately, the province is going to mandate it anyway," Dunn said. "So as far as I'm concerned, whether you're for or against it, they're working in other municipalities and we need to do something."

With files from Dale Molnar


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