KAMLOOPS — It seems there is no slowing the overdose epidemic in B.C.
With more than 1,100 deaths, it's been all hands on deck trying to save lives, and the St. John Ambulance has been playing a vital role starting this year.
"When things really took a turn for the worst in December, St. John Ambulance was called upon by Health Emergency Management BC to contribute first responders to the crisis," said Jill Wurflinger from St. John Ambulance B.C. & Yukon. "It was the first time we were ever asked to do something like that."
In the Lower Mainland, hundreds of St. John Ambulance volunteers have been administering naloxone when needed.
"We, within 10 days, had developed an opioid overdose management course," said Wurflinger. "We trained our volunteers and we sent them out to the downtown eastside and in Surrey to work side-by-side with community outreach nurses."
The province is now wanting to expand the role of St. John Ambulance to communities like Kamloops, which has experience 33 deaths so far this year — compared to 43 all of last year.
"Having this is just another tool our tool box," said St. John Ambulance division superintendant Andy Philpot. "Additional training to bring our level of training up. We're getting a lot of event organizers asking if we are qualified and we carry naloxone with us."
Given their role in the community, St. John Ambulance volunteers would be well-suited to administer naloxone.
"Because of the duties that we do within the city, we are at a lot of events. Riverside Park, events in the downtown core, where we are already experiencing and have experienced and dealt with drug ODs — both for the positive outcome and for the not-so-positive outcome."
The hope is volunteers will be in position to use naloxone early next year.
"We're hoping fairly soon in the new year, probably January, early February," said Philpot. "We do have one of our members who's nursing instructor, and she's taken on the role of being our in-house instructor. It's just getting all the information necessary from the province as to how the program's going to roll out."
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