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A small change with life-saving impact

First responders deal with people in the midst of some of their worst moments. Recently, it seems those moments more often involve opioids.

For that reason, opioid is slowly becoming one of the scariest words in the province of Ontario. The deaths are piling up, even as deadlier versions of the synthetic drugs continue to appear on city streets, most often times laced in with other drugs for an even more sinister twist. Between 2015 and 2016, Health Canada found that the number of incidents of these deadly additives found inside other drugs increased by as much as 40 per cent.

Oshawa Fire Services made a serious step with a preventative measure in the ongoing opioid crisis, and while it may have been a small change operationally, the impact is life-saving.

Under a new program, Oshawa Fire Services will now be carrying Naloxone (also known as Narcan) on their trucks in order to potentially save someone from overdosing if the fire truck is the first on the scene of a call.

The measure follows on the heels of other fire services which have taken the same steps, with Vancouver and Calgary putting Narcan in the hands of their firefighters in 2016, and Ottawa doing the same earlier this year.

Narcan is effectively a temporary off-switch for an overdose, allowing enough time to get the person to the hospital. As the opioid crisis continues to surge across the country, this drug should become mandatory equipment for all first responders, including police.

In Durham Region, only a selection of officers carry these kits, but with reports of the appearance of carafentanil in the region, our police service should really consider whether this should be mandatory for all officers, and whether a funding change needs to come at the provincial level in order to make that happen.

Carafentanil, perhaps one of the deadlier players in the opioid story, is essentially an elephant tranquilizer, and an iota of this drug, the size of a grain of salt, is considered deadly for humans. Recently, a cop in Ohio accidentally overdosed by merely brushing some of the substance from his uniform with his bare hand.

It’s these reports that suggest the new program for the Oshawa Fire Services comes just in time. Others in the province need to be following suit.