Vancouver and Surrey firefighters will be the first in B.C. to start carrying and administering naloxone, an opioid drug overdose medication, according to the provincial government.
Naloxone is an injectable medication that, when delivered promptly, can reverse the effects of an opioid drug overdose and potentially save lives. According to the government, it’s easily administered and requires little training.
Opioid drugs include heroin, morphine, methadone, and Oxycodone, and are often mixed with fentanyl.
Health Minister Terry Lake said overdoses can happen to anyone.
“This program recognizes that with the increasing number of overdoses we’re seeing, we have to make sure the people on the front lines responding to emergency calls have the right treatment available to save lives,” he said in a statement.
The program comes as a response to the rising number of overdose deaths in B.C. In 2015 alone, there were 465 drug overdose deaths, and fentanyl was detected in 30% of them.
Community-based paramedics will now also be able to administer the overdose drug – previously, administration was only permitted by higher trained paramedics.
The new program is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health, Provincial Health Services Authority, BC Emergency Health Services, and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
The Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation was recently given a federal exemption to allow their downtown centre to continue providing a safe injection site to drug users. It’s now the second safe injection site in Vancouver that’s meant to combat overdose deaths and the spread of disease.