Governments boosts EHS funding to fight fentanyl

By Adam Donnelly
November 25, 2016 - 11:35am Updated: November 25, 2016 - 4:53pm

KAMLOOPS — Last week saw the highest number of overdose-related 911 calls in the province’s history.

Between November 17th and 23rd, BC Emergency Health Services Paramedics responded to over 500 suspected overdose calls in British Columbia, with 11 coming in Kamloops alone.

This morning, BC Health Minister Terry Lake was at the BC Ambulance building on Dalhousie Drive, where he announced increased resources for first responders, in the province, in response to the opioid overdose crisis gripping the province.

WATCH: Full report by Adam Donnelly

“In 2015, BC Ambulance responded to 310 suspected overdoses in our city,” Lake told media at the event, this morning. “This year alone, to date, they’ve responded to almost 470.”

Minister Lake announced an extra $5 million for BC Emergency Health Services today, to provide more resources for the ambulance paramedics who often find themselves on the front line of the opioid overdose crisis in the province.

“[BC EHS Paramedics] have literally saved hundreds of lives,” Lake said, adding “We know that without the actions of first responders… literally, hundreds and hundreds of British Columbians would be dead today.”

The extra money will help increase staffing levels for the BCEHS, as well as fund some new initiatives in areas with high occurrences of overdoses, like Vancouver’s  Downtown Eastside, or in some parts of Surrey. Those efforts include stationary medical support units that can resupply paramedics in those areas, provide resources for drug users in the area.

According to Paul Swain, a Director of Patient Care Delivery for the BC Ambulance Service, “This is huge, in terms of funding… for the ambulance service. It’s going to allow us to be able to respond to the current drug overdose crisis.”

The plan also calls for more mobility for paramedics, which will allow them to get to overdose patients sooner, a key factor when administering naloxone.

“Minister Lake talked about some innovative approaches that we’re going to be trying out immediately in the Lower Mainland,” said Swain, referring to the use of bikes and ATV’s for paramedics in the areas. These tools could be available to BCAS Paramedics in Kamloops if the crisis worsens.

Lake also mentioned the importance of a federal strategy for enforcement, to limit the import of illicit opioids from China, and also to ensure distributors in Canada have a more difficult time processing those narcotics. He praised the announcement of federal cooperation with Chinese security forces, to kerb the production and export of substances like fentanyl while calling for a ban on the import of pill press machines from overseas.

“If we had a federal law in place, that means federal agencies like CBSA could now intercept those pill presses before they enter the country,” Lake said.

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