Firefighters are also affected by the opioid crisis. - Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna firefighters affected by opioid crisis

Firefighters will be changing halls every year to rotate from the downtown core

The opioid crisis is taking its toll on Kelowna firefighters.

For their mental health, firefighters are starting hall rotations on a yearly basis around the city.

Previously, rotations were conducted every two years, said deputy fire chief Larry Hollier.

“It definitely works on them psychologically, going to repeated overdoses, because not all overdoses turn out to the positive side,” he said. “Due to the mental health and the increasing overdoses downtown, it gives the guys a bit of a break.”

Each first fire engine dispatched is supplied with two naloxone kits. Firetrucks were supplied with the kits about a year and a half ago, said Hollier. Firefighters administer naloxone several times a week.

“I think in the downtown core we’re averaging two overdoses a day, but that doesn’t mean we’re first on scene or that we’re administering before BC Ambulance arrives,” he said.

It’s not a difficult drug to administer, he said. The overdoses are not limited to the downtown core either.

More than 2,800 people in Canada died last year as a result of the opioid crisis, with 47 in Kelowna.

More than 1,100 people died from overdoses this year in B.C., making it one of the hardest hit by the epidemic. About 60 died between January and August in Kelowna.

The new firefighter rotations start Jan. 1.

Interior Health does not offer specific training for first responders, but “is grateful to all of the first responders for working to save lives during the overdose emergency,” said John Yarschenko, IH health services administrator.

First responders are covered by BC Emergency Health Services, he said.

“For the general public, we provide a variety of mental health services in the community. Services include individual and group counselling, psychiatric and psychological services, urgent and emergent intervention, and case management services.”

Recently, the federal government announced $10 million in emergency funding to combat the opioid crisis from the frontlines in B.C., as part of a larger funding commitment to combat gun violence and gang activity across the country.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


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