Firefighters to carry drug overdose kit

Prince George firefighters will be able to administer the life-saving drug naloxone by the end of next month.

Fire chief John Iverson said its members could be trained to try and reverse opiod overdoses within four weeks so it can better deal with the spike in overdoses in Prince George.

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"There aren't any currently trained, but we are very close," said Iverson after the request - a one-year agreement with B.C. Emergency Health Services - won unanimous approval from council.

The move addresses a "great need" in both the city and the province, he said.

Although the department doesn't track the number of overdose calls, or when firefighters arrive before other emergency personnel, the number has grown "immensely," he said.

The B.C. Coroners Service reported a 74 per cent increase in drug overdose deaths between January and July this year compared to the same time period in 2015. By the end of June, nine deaths in Prince George showed traces of fentanyl, up from seven the year before.

"The people that are living a very high risk existence... it will reduce their likelihood of injury or death," Iverson said.

Coun. Brian Skakun said he sees the approach as the province downloading costs to municipalities.

"I think the benefit of saving lives... outweighs that," said Skakun, adding addiction and overdoses need a more preventative approach rather than reactive.

Iverson said he plans to have all firefighters trained and that naloxone provides relief to the person overdosing within five to 10 minutes.

"It's really a remarkable and drastic change."

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