THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - A potentially life-saving drug for overdose patients will be introduced to prisons across B.C. and staff will begin learning how to administer it next week.
Naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is finally making its way into prisons and should help guards protect prisoners and themselves as the deadly drug fentanyl continues to spread.
Dean Purdy, spokesperson for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, says a meeting held today, Nov. 4, between the BCGEU and the Corrections branch ended in the approval of a risk assessment.
The two bodies have been working together on a plan to introduce naloxone in the nasal spray form to prisons across B.C., to help promote the safety of prisoners and guards. This comes just days after a deputy sheriff in Nanaimo was hospitalized after being exposed to fentanyl while searching an inmate.
The sheriff was conducting a gloved search, but the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says the sheriff was exposed to a crystal-like substance while searching the inmate before being transported to court.
The province has already declared a health emergency due to the emergence of fentanyl, a potent drug up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl was responsible for more than half of B.C.'s illicit drug overdoses this year.
"This is a good news thing for us," Purdy says. "We’re definitely in favour of having (naloxone) in the correctional centres in the form of spray."
He says education and training for administering naloxone will begin as soon as possible, likely next week. It's not yet known when naloxone will be introduced to the prisons, but Purdy says it should be rolled out soon after guards complete training.
Although the guards will be trained to use the medication, Purdy says on-site health care staff will be there to administer it during the day and when they're not around, supervising staff will be responsible.
"It will be available for supervisors to use in the dark hours and when health care staff are not on site," he says.
Police, firefighters, various social agencies and even businesses have started training in administering naloxone. The injectable form has generally been used, but Purdy says having the medication as a nasal spray would limit the risks of having it inside prisons.
For more of our coverage of the fentanyl crisis, click here.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.