B.C. to require life-saving overdose remedy on fire trucks

Surrey firefighters arrive first at drug overdose scenes 91 per cent of the time, but have been unable to administer Narcan

Naxalone will be required for use among all first responders to help save people from opiate overdoses.

Faster and more-effective help is on the way for drug addicts who have overdosed, as the province makes life-saving help a requirement for first responders.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake was expected to announce Friday that the province was implementing the new rule.

The announcement has been delayed, but the changes are still in the works.

Proponents say the new legislation will definitely save lives.

Recently, a growing number of drug users have unwittingly ingested fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than morphine. The result is often death.

Key to rescuing them is a drug called Naloxone, or Narcan, which  when injected in an overdosing patient will quickly neutralize the effects of opiates, including heroin and fentanyl.

Crucial to effective treatment is a fast response.

In Surrey, firefighters are the first to arrive at overdose incidents 91 per cent of the time, according to a Jan. 12 briefing note to Surrey council written by Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.

“The Fraser Health chief medical officer and the vice-president of the Provincial Health Services Authority have asked the Surrey Fire Service to partner with them to assist in reducing overdose deaths in our community,” Garis writes in the memo. “The key intervention is the administration of Naloxone as soon as possible after a person has overdosed.”

The province previously implemented a “Take Home Naloxone” program, where addicts could have a dose of Narcan with them in case of an overdose.

The program hasn’t stemmed the rising tide of fentanyl overdoses in  Surrey or the region.

Surrey Fire Services responded to 1,606 drug overdose calls last year.

The province will be requiring that all first responders carry and administer Naloxone.

That will eventually include police, but it’s expected training will be necessary, and law enforcement might use the nasal spray Naloxone instead of injection.

A date for Lake’s announcement has not yet been fixed.