The number of drug overdoses involving fentanyl remains high in the province.
The Northern region has the highest percentage within the province of fentanyl detected drug overdose deaths, an updated report from the BC Coroners Service states.
The rise in deaths and increasingly deadly drugs, such as fentanyl, is one of the reasons the Prince Rupert Fire Department is training their fire fighters to carry naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid drugs, such as morphine, heroin and fentanyl.
“It’s just another tool in our toolbox that allows us to aid in our first aid training to assist the public in this case for an overdose,” Prince Rupert Fire Chief Dave Mckenzie said.
“When we determine that someone has overdosed it’s just a matter of maintaining their pulse, that they have an airway and that they’re breathing. If their breathing is too low we have to assist their breathing and that helps quite a bit. This will help faster,” he said.
Before administering naloxone to a person who is experiencing a suspected overdose the fire fighters will call an on-call doctor who will confirm if using naloxone is appropriate in the situation.
In the 25 plus years that Mckenzie has been in the region he’s seen the use of illicit drugs increase and since fentanyl has come out, he said it has gotten worse over the past couple of years.
“We just want to give anyone the best chance,” Mckenzie said.
Once the fire fighters are trained by the end of September, Mckenzie will order naloxone to stock the fire department. There is an expiration date on naloxone, so for the sake of training they are using a saline solution. Each of the three fire trucks will then carry a naloxone kit.
In the first six months of the year, 62 per cent of the overdose deaths showed fentanyl in the toxicology tests, the BC Coroner’s report states. From January through to July the number of illicit drug overdose deaths was 433, which was a 74 per cent increase from the year previous.
Prince Rupert had one drug overdose death involving fentanyl this year, according to BC Coroner’s Service stats. The city was not specifically named in the recent report.
Coroner Barb McLintock at the BC Coroners Service said that is a positive note.
“If your community isn’t named specifically it’s because your number of deaths is too small to be disclosed without risking privacy issues,” she said.
BC Emergency Health Services have already trained at least 45 fire departments in the province including the fire chief and deputy fire chief in Prince Rupert who received training on June 18.