The number of drug overdoses in Mission have risen rapidly so far this year.
New fire chief Dale Unrau told council on Monday that firefighters have responded to at least 18 overdoses in 2016.
That’s more than half of the 25 overdose calls in all of 2015, in just the first two months of the year.
Based on the current response statistics, Unrau said “we’re in for a large increase in this type of incidents.”
Police are aware of the increase and continue to target traffickers.
“This reported increase highlights the dangers of illicit drug use,” said Mission RCMP Insp. Ted De Jager.
“There is an increase in the distribution of Fentanyl, although we have no evidence to suggest that this is the cause at this point. We will continue to work with our partners to target those who traffic in these types of drugs. These dealers prey on some of our most vulnerable citizens and are a direct threat to the safety of our community.”
Fentanyl is a fast-acting narcotic that is said to have heroin-like effects. It is similar to, but more potent than, morphine.
The increase in overdoses is not just a Mission problem. Numbers have been rising all across the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.
In an attempt to prevent overdose fatalities, the Ministry of Health is now allowing first responders to administer naloxone, if needed, in overdose cases.
Currently, Mission firefighters are only allowed to assist with breathing, perform CPR and apply oxygen until an ambulance arrives.
The new program allows firefighters to inject the naloxone – a drug used to block or reverses the effects of opioids – if needed.
Mission firefighters will be receiving training for this new program, which should be running in about four months.
“It’s a very simple training program, done in under two hours. It will make a huge difference in our ability to respond to these types of incidents,” said Unrau.
The naloxone will be issued in a predetermined amount.
“It is a very specific dose in a single use vial. Each person would get exactly the same amount,” said Unrau who added there are strict procedures that have to be followed before administering drug including contacting a physician by phone to get approval.