(BlackburnNews.com photo by John Chippa)

OPP Officers To Carry Overdose Kits

As concerns over fentanyl continue to rise across Ontario, provincial police are taking steps to protect frontline officers against the deadly opioid.

The OPP announced on Friday it is issuing its officers naloxone, an opioid antagonist that counteracts the effects of fentanyl. Each officer will now carry a kit with two doses of the nasal spray while on duty. Personal kits will also be given to officers in the Drug Enforcement Units and Community Street Crime Units.

“We take the health and safety of our members and our communities very seriously. With the increased prevalence of fentanyl, fentanyl analogues and synthetic opioid powders on our streets, there is a very real danger of exposure and these steps are being taken to ensure the safety of those we serve and our officers,” said Commissioner J.V.N. (Vince) Hawkes in a news release.

The primary purpose of the naloxone is for use if an officer is exposed. However, in a life threatening situation when emergency medical staff are not present officers will be allowed to use it to reverse an overdose in citizens.

It will now be mandatory for officers to wear protective equipment including a respiratory mask, safety glasses or goggles, nitrile gloves, and long sleeve shirt or jacket while conducting drug searches and seizures.

According to OPP, Health Canada testing determined fentanyl was present in 114 seizures by the force in 2016. This year’s seizures are likely to be on par with those numbers. Police forces throughout the country have reported several incidents of frontline officers experiencing overdose symptoms after being exposed to the drug during seizures.

Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose for approximately 20 minutes to one hour.