Po­lice not sold on free provin­cial nalox­one kits

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor

The prov­ince is of­fer­ing to equip front­line po­lice of­fi­cers across On­tario with po­ten­tially life-sav­ing nalox­one kits, just months af­ter Hamil­ton’s own ser­vice re­jected the idea.

The prov­ince an­nounced the of­fer Thurs­day of free nasal spray kits for po­lice and fire de­part­ments, call­ing it a nec­es­sary re­sponse to a grow­ing opi­oid over­dose cri­sis.

Hamil­ton is con­sid­ered an over­dose epi­demic hot spot.

Opi­oid-re­lated ac­ci­den­tal deaths in the city climbed four times higher in 2016 than from in 2007.

Nalox­one tem­po­rar­ily re­verses the over­dose ef­fects of opi­oids like fen­tanyl, in some cases just long enough for a person to get to the hos­pi­tal.

Hamil­ton paramedics al­ready carry the kits, as do fire­fight­ers for their own pro­tec­tion.

Po­lice Chief Eric Girt said in March his of­fi­cers would not carry the tem­po­rary an­ti­dotes, ar­gu­ing po­lice are not health-care providers and cit­ing li­a­bil­ity con­cerns.

On Thurs­day, the ser­vice is­sued a state­ment that says po­lice ap­pre­ci­ate the of­fer and the prov­ince’s “proac­tive ap­proach,” but added “there is still a need to re­view de­tails re­lat­ing to sup­plies, stor­age and ap­pro­pri­ate ad­min­is­tra­tion of the drug.”

The Min­istry of Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices con­firmed Thurs­day the nalox­one roll­out is op­tional. It is up to in­di­vid­ual ser­vice lead­ers to de­cide whether to use the of­fered kits.

Po­lice board chair Lloyd Ferguson called the prov­ince’s of­fer to fund the kits and pro­vide nasal spray rather than in­jectable nalox­one “help­ful.” But he re­it­er­ated the chief has also out­lined con­cerns about li­a­bil­ity and whether an over­dose vic­tim would truth­fully re­veal to po­lice what drug had been taken.

“The chief and his se­nior com­mand will be dis­cussing this. … We need more in­for­ma­tion. It may be a de­ci­sion made in con­sul­ta­tion with the board.”

The Hamil­ton Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion is “ab­so­lutely sup­port­ive” of the roll­out to front-line of­fi­cers, said pres­i­dent Clint Twolan, who has pre­vi­ously ar­gued the kits make sense for of­fi­cer and pub­lic safety alike.

Twolan said his mem­bers are in­creas­ingly ex­posed to fen­tanyl, and po­lice rou­tinely re­spond to mul­ti­ple over­dose calls in a shift.

He said al­low­ing po­lice to carry the kits for per­sonal pro­tec­tion would add “a layer of com­fort.”

But he also sug­gested many front-line of­fi­cers would not want to stop there.

“If you put it in hands of po­lice of­fi­cers, even for self-use … if I come across some­one in need, I wouldn’t hes­i­tate.”

That said, Twolan ac­knowl­edged the “dilemma” of li­a­bil­ity fac­ing po­lice brass. An­other “hurdle” fac­ing his mem­bers, he said, is the prospect of a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit (SIU) probe if an of­fi­cer uses nalox­one on an over­dose vic­tim and the person dies.

Hamil­ton’s fire de­part­ment al­ready car­ries kits on emer­gency re­sponse trucks in case fire­fight­ers are un­wit­tingly ex­posed to fen­tanyl or other dan­ger­ous opi­oids. So far, those kits have never been used.

The new provin­cial roll­out of­fers the ser­vice the op­por­tu­nity to equip fire­fight­ers with life-sav­ing kits “for pub­lic use,” said fire de­part­ment spokesper­son Clau­dio Mostacci.

He said top fire de­part­ment of­fi­cials will re­view the pro­gram el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments and likely make a re­port to coun­cil.

The Hamil­ton Pro­fes­sional Fire­fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion is open to the idea, said pres­i­dent Stan Dou­ble.

“If there is an op­por­tu­nity to as­sist in sav­ing a life, cer­tainly we want to have that dis­cus­sion,” he said.

A min­istry spokesper­son said the prov­ince is of­fer­ing to equip any po­lice of­fi­cer “who may rea­son­ably en­counter a sit­u­a­tion where a person has over­dosed,” but added each ser­vice will de­cide how many of­fi­cers are el­i­gi­ble to carry the kits.

Fire de­part­ments are el­i­gi­ble for two kits per emer­gency ve­hi­cle.

If I come across some­one in need, I wouldn’t hes­i­tate. CLINT TWOLAN PO­LICE UNION

Po­lice chief Eric Girt wants to re­view de­tails.

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