In the first three and a half months of 2022, County of Simcoe Paramedics responded to 120 suspected overdose calls, which is 3.4 per cent higher than the same period in 2021.
The sobering statistic was presented to County of Simcoe councillors as part of a staff report proposing a new Expanded Access Naloxone Program to be undertaken by paramedics in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. The program would see free naloxone kits distributed to paramedics to dole out during their travels if they encounter people at risk of an overdose.
“This is a program anticipated to be a safe and viable option for those at risk of opioid overdose, providing a vital, life-saving medication to counteract the effect of an overdose while giving paramedics an opportunity to educate the person at risk, and others, in the use of naloxone,” noted Andrew Robert, director and chief of Simcoe County Paramedic Services, in his report to councillors.
“This, in turn, will provide options to assist in harm-reduction support where barriers to access, especially in rural and remote communities, exist,” he wrote.
Naloxone (Narcan) is a medication that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose by blocking the narcotic effects. It can restore normal breathing after an overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive.
The kits are portable pouches containing the opioid antidote that can be administered through the nose to revive an unresponsive person who is overdosing. The kit also includes non-latex gloves, instructions for use and information on harm reduction.
In 2020/2021, County of Simcoe Paramedics responded to 5,505 general overdoses. Of that number, 879 were suspected opioid overdoses.
“Comparisons between 2020 and 2021 indicate a significant increase in these suspected opioid overdoses, from 360 to 510, respectively,” wrote Robert.
As a partner in the new project, paramedics would carry intra-nasal naloxone kits in their ambulances.
The process is anonymous for the recipient; however, paramedics will collect information related to the number of units distributed, number of people trained, and the number of Naloxone administrations prior to ambulance arrival for reporting purposes.
Muskoka Paramedic Services, Peel Region Paramedic Services, York Region Paramedic Services and Grey County Paramedic Services already participate in the program.
On Tuesday, councillors voted in favour of receiving the report and signing an agreement with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to implement the program. The decision will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of council before going into effect.