SECOND HAND RISK

It takes only a minuscule amount for first responders to be affected when dealing with opioids, according to two recent articles in North American newspapers. In the Nanaimo Bulletin, Tamara Cunningham writes about a workshop on Vancouver Island helping first responders to recognize and protect themselves against fentanyl, as well as trends in trafficking and investigation and prosecution methods. "Part of the instructions that we're providing is the proper use of personal protective equipment to safeguard first responders from a fentanyl overdose or fentanyl exposure and that can happen when say, police officers enter a drug dealers' house where they are either selling fentanyl or they are converting fentanyl into counterfeit pills," Staff Sgt. Conor King, with the Victoria City Police Department and co-producer of the workshop, told The Nanaimo Bulletin.

The RCMP carries naloxone and personal protective equipment, as well as developing fentanyl safety regulations, in-house training and laboratory and specialized units, said King.

The Justice Institute of B.C. also developed a website, fentanylsafety.com, this year to address the issue.

The workshops, which started last year, are attracting national and international attendance, Boeschler told the Nanaimo Bulletin. "This is a very, very dangerous situation not only to the people who use drugs on the street but also to the first responder community who are trying to go out there and help people - but we also need to go home to our families," he said.

In Wisconsin, similar strategies are playing out. Scott Gordon writes in WisContext about methods that local first responders are using to counter or avoid contact with opioids, especially given the rising costs of some of the preventatives."The prices of naloxone are going way way up, sky-high, as more and more people are becoming addicted and more and more people are able to give it," Fred Hornby, conference and sales director for the Wisconsin EMS Association and emergency medical technician told WisContext. "In Wisconsin, about 80 percent of our services are volunteer in nature, which means they don't get paid for what they do and the reimbursement issue is of a large concern."

Gordon also writes about the adjustment needed to react to different strengths or types of opioid. "Emergency responders who've learned to use naloxone also have to adjust as novel and more powerful opioids come into the picture. If someone has overdosed on carfentanil, they may need multiple doses of naloxone, whereas someone overdosing on heroin or oxycodone may only need one. If a person overdoses on a novel opioid that hasn't been studied very much or tested on humans, that calculation becomes even harder for a first responder under pressure," he writes.

Sources:

http://www.nanaimobulletin.com/news/workshop-details-risk-fentanyl-poses-to-first-responders-on-vancouver-island/

https://www.wiscontext.org/wisconsins-first-responders-take-steps-avoid-opioid-exposure-job