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New West police officer revives man in distress with Narcan

More than 30 people died in New West of overdoses in 2020
A naloxone kit, part of life-saving harm reduction tools to curb the drug poisoning crisis.

A man in distress “began to show signs of life” after police administered Narcan.

The New Westminster Police Department reports that one of its officers was doing foot patrols in the 400 block of Columbia Street on Saturday, Jan. 23 when he observed a male snorting something off the ground.

“Upon approaching this male, the member witnessed him fall backwards and lose consciousness, where he turned pale and his lips turned blue,” said an NWPD press release. “Additional patrol members arrived on scene to assist, and two doses of Narcan nasal spray were administered.”

Police state that soon after receiving the doses of Narcan nasal spray, the man began to show signs of life. Patrol members stayed with the man until he was assessed by BC Ambulance.

“We’re glad our members located this individual when they did and were able to provide lifesaving intervention,” said police spokesperson Sgt. Sanjay Kumar. “The naloxone spray is used often by our patrol members, and with great success – we’re thankful that all our members have access to it.”

According to Kumar, New Westminster police officers used 41 naloxone kits in 2020; of those, 18 people regained consciousness. He said paramedics would have attended the scene and took over medical care of individuals in all of these incidents, so he couldn’t elaborate on whether they would have been taken to hospital or received on-scene assistance.

The New Westminster Police Department began using Narcan in February 2017 as a means of saving lives in opioid overdose situations.

“The drug, which enters the body through a nasal spray, reverses the effects of opioids,” said the press release. “New Westminster Police Department would like to encourage people using drugs to practise harm-reduction strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The incident comes at a time when Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland Purpose Society are planning to open a health contact centre in New Westminster. The facility, which would be open at 40 Begbie St. daily from 3 to 11 p.m., would provide witnessed consumption, drug testing, harm reduction supplies, take-home naloxone kits, training on naloxone, education on safe drug use, nutritional information, a medical clinic, regular needle sweeps of the neighbourhood and referrals to treatment centres and other economic and/or health services.

In July 2020, city council directed staff to work with Fraser Health to explore an overdose prevention site and a safe supply program in New Westminster. On Jan. 25, council urged staff to do what it can to try and help the facility as soon as possible, noting there were 31 illicit overdose deaths in New West from January to November 2020.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus