A New Westminster police officer was able to revive a man who was overdosing not far from the police station.
A New Westminster Police Department constable was patrolling in the downtown just after 3 p.m. on Dec. 30 when he was flagged down by two citizens, who directed him to a man who appeared to be overdosing in the 500 block of Clarkson Street.
According to a press release from the New Westminster Police Department, when the officer saw nearby drug paraphernalia, he reached for his Narcan nasal spray and administered a dose while calling for paramedics. Soon after receiving a dose of Narcan nasal spray, police said the man began to show signs of life.
The officer moved the man into a recovery position and reassured him that BC Ambulance was on the way. The patient was assessed on scene by paramedics.
“We are struggling with two provincial health emergencies that are putting the most vulnerable in our community at additional risk,” police spokesperson Sgt. Sanjay Kumar said in a news release. “We’re relieved this constable was in the area at the right time.”
The New Westminster Police Department adopted the use of Narcan in February of 2017 as a means to save lives in opioid overdose situations. The drug, which enters the body through a nasal spray, reverses the effects of opioids.
Illicit drug deaths soaring
The most recent report from the BC Coroners Service indicated there were 153 suspected drug toxicity deaths in November 2020, which was an 89% increase over the 81 deaths in November 2019 . The BC Coroners Service states that the latest data is equal to five people per day losing their lives to illicit drug overdoses.
"Tragically, as we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a toxic illicit drug supply,"
Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, said British Columbia is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost to a toxic illicit drug supply. She said more than 6,500 families have experienced the grief and sadness of losing a loved one to the challenging medical condition of drug addiction during the five-year-long public health emergency.
According to the BC Coroners Service, there were 1,548 illicit drug deaths in B.C. from January to November 2020. Toxicology results suggest a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations from April to November 2020 compared with previous months.
"The impacts of COVID-19 have been deadly for those experiencing problematic substance use," Lapointe said. "Ensuring access to critical harm reduction measures including naloxone, supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention sites and drug checking services are essential if we want to prevent future deaths. Providing those with substance use disorder access to pharmaceutical alternatives will be of immense benefit to reduce the harms and suffering resulting from the 'for-profit' illicit drug market. Additionally, as recommended by coroners' inquest juries and death review panels, an accessible, evidence-based and accountable treatment and recovery system is desperately needed to support those seeking these supports on their path to wellness."
The New Westminster Police Department encourages people using drugs to practice harm reduction strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information can be found on the BC Centre for Disease Control website at www.bccdc.ca.