First Aid providers fighting to keep opioid overdoses from Northern work camps

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – First aid companies operating in Northern B.C. are working on a number of tactics to reduce the possibility of fatal drug overdoses in worker camps in the area.

Dr. Alan Holmes founded Iridia Medical in 1998. The company provides first aid and paramedic services for many companies operating in Northeast B.C., including BC Hydro, Nexen, Progress Energy, Falcon Camp Services, and Trojan Safety Services, among others. Dr. Holmes says that many of his employees are on the front line in the battle to keep illicit drugs from entering, and drug overdose deaths from occurring, in work camps. “All of our paramedics are drug and alcohol testers, so if there’s any reasonable cause, or someone has a near-miss or an accident, they’re automatically tested for alcohol and drugs,” said Dr. Holmes. “That’s one of the big deterrents.”  Holmes says that many of his clients have incredibly strict drug and alcohol policies, some conduct bag searches and random searches by drug-sniffing dogs.

Where Dr. Holmes shows concern is the topic of what workers do during their time off. “Sixty percent of all fentanyl overdoses occur in a private residence. Another thirty percent occur in hotels and other public places. That’s where the stats are showing people are running into this problem, so trying to awareness through the various education campaigns is also something that we look at as well.”

Dr. Holmes says his company primarily hires primary care and advanced care paramedics, who are already trained in the use of, and carry naloxone, which temporarily blocks opioid receptors in the body. His company has also been involved in the fight against fentanyl by consulting with fire departments across the province and instructing their members in the use of naloxone, especially the new kits that dispense the antidote in a nasal spray form.

The province released statistics today that show that 102 people are suspected of dying from fatal drug overdoses last month, which is the second straight month that the number has decreased. Dr. Holmes says that though that number is still high, it is encouraging to see the numbers of fatal overdoses starting to level off.

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