Regional firefighter Luke Russell is a first responder

Naloxone pilot project underway for RDKB first responders

A rise in opioid overdoses has led to training and use of naloxone by career firefighters in Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

Local first responders are being called out to an increasing number of opioid overdoses sometimes even three or four times a shift.

The rise in these types of calls has prompted a pilot project in naloxone at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) fire department. Often firefighters are the first responders to the scene.

Until now, the RDKB crew has been responsible for maintaining the patient’s airway until BC Ambulance arrived with a dose of naloxone, which is a medication used to block the effects of opioid on the respiratory system.

After training with the BCEHS (B.C. Emergency Health Services) regional career firefighters can now inject the drug once an airway is maintained, and monitor the patient’s response until ambulance attendants arrive.

“The calls are more frequent this year, we are definitely seeing the pattern increase,” says Grant Tyson, an 18-year firefighter. “Before Narcan (brand name of naloxone) all we could do was maintain the airway, fentanyl stops the breathing, there’s still a pulse, but we have to breathe for the person,” he explained. “It’s quite straight forward, we are still there to maintain the patient’s airway, but if BC Ambulance is delayed, we will take the next step.”

Fire Chief Terry Martin clarified that the program is only in-house at this point, naloxone training has not been rolled out to paid on call firemen in Rossland, Warfield, Genelle or the Beaver Valley.

“That is going to take some more thinking and research to see what kind of calls we are getting in the outlying areas,” he noted. “We are going to run it here first and see if it is successful.”

The drug responsible for the majority of incidents is fentanyl, an opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine ,and linked to hundreds of fatal overdoses in B.C. this year, including one in the Kootenay Boundary.

“This is not new to the province, it’s been really widespread throughout the Lower Mainland,” said Martin, a 25-year firefighter. “I think we are now seeing the effect of it coming to our neighbourhoods, so to speak.”

Very shortly after receiving their training, the Ministry of Health released new regulations regarding naloxone administration in B.C. first responders are no longer required to complete BCEHS training for licence endorsement. Additionally, since March, naloxone kits have been available without prescription in B.C. pharmacies.

However, first responder training provides quality assurance and best practices which includes reporting all incidents to BCEHS.

“You don’t just go in there, draw it up and stick them with a needle,” said Tyson. “We had one guy who overdosed, (in a nearby location) BC Ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, so we (established) an airway into him,” he added. “The guy stood up and cocked his arm ready to pop one of our guys we don’t like these kind of calls because you never know what you are walking into.”

The rise in opioid overdose from prescription and illicit drugs has become a public health issue, and often referred to as a public health crisis.

In 2015 BC Ambulance Service administered naloxone in 3094 patient overdose events to reverse opioid-related respiratory depression.

The BC Coroners Service recently reported 302 illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected from January through August 2016. This is a 211 per cent increase over the number of deaths (97) occurring during the same period in 2015. Most decedents (79 per cent) were male, and over half (60 per cent) were between 19 and 39 years of age.

Tyson noted in his experience, age doesn’t seem to matter.

“The other day there was a girl who snorted heroin and fentanyl was mixed in with it,” he shared. “It’s scary, it’s all ages, we had one lady who was 57, so it’s far reaching,” he concluded. “It’s getting worse and takes us all of us working together on patient care. But those guys on BC Ambulance, they don’t get enough recognition for what they do.”

Naloxone has been used in Canada for over 40 years and is on the World Health Organization list of essential medicines. The medication does nothing in someone who has not taken opioids, since all it does is block opioid effects in the brain. The medication cannot get a person high, and does not encourage opioid use.

Just Posted

Trail police release image of liquor store robber

The video surveillance image shows the robber aiming a black gun at the store’s clerk

More snow called for the Kootenays

Environment Canada issued the bulletin Tuesday under its “BC Traveller’s Routes forecast”

Castlegar daycare selected for univeral child care pilot program

MLA Katrine Conroy presents letter of acceptance to the program to the Children’s Centre at Selkirk College

Kootenay employers ready to meet job seekers at Black Press career fair

Dozens of companies will attend the event on Nov. 15 at the Ktunaxa Nation Building in Cranbrook

Sandblasting Silver City skate sign

The Trail Sk8 Park was closed on Thursday so workers could ready a sign for painting

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Most Read