Langley Township fire department will not carry Narcan kits on their fire trucks to deal with drug overdoses at this time, said assistant fire chief Bruce Ferguson.
Administered early enough, Narcan or naloxone can reverse an opioid drug overdose and potentially save lives.
Last week, firefighters in Surrey and Vancouver became the first to carry the kits.
Both those municipalities had the highest number of overdose deaths in B.C. last year.
“So far, they are the only ones that have been OK’d to try this pilot project,” said Ferguson. “Administrating Narcan is so far not in our scope of practice.”
Ambulance paramedics have long been equipped with the drug, but the program is being expanded to include firefighters after an increase in overdoses to opioid drugs, such as heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl.
Fire departments across the province may be able to join the program by signing an agreement with B.C. Emergency Health Services to provide physician oversight, after regulations were changed this month to allow fire rescue first responders to administer nalaxone.
Firefighters in Langley attend overdoses all the time, said Ferguson. But he said he personally hasn’t heard that there is an increase in overdoses locally.
“Definitely not an epidemic. Drug overdoses are not specific to a neighbourhood or class of people.
“Drugs impact families in all demographics.”
Last week in Maple Ridge, a woman overdosed and died. Fire crews there have responded to 17 overdoses in one week.
“It’s an absolute epidemic. It’s horrific the overdoses we’re seeing,” Maple Ridge Fire Chief Dane Spence told Maple Ridge News.
Illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. have jumped 27 per cent in 2015 and nearly 50 per cent in the Fraser Region, according to the B.C. Coroner’s Service.
An estimated 30 per cent of overdose deaths involved fentanyl — either the dangerously potent synthetic opiate by itself or mixed with other drugs — and that proportion has steadily climbed over the past three years.
The Ministry of Health estimates that 370 opioid drug overdoses have been reversed by the treatment.
— files from Colleen Flanagan, Maple Ridge News and Black Press reporter Jeff Nagel.