“The same female was unresponsive in her bedroom. My initial thought, unfortunately, was that she was dead,” says OPP Provincial Constable Andrew Gamble regarding an incident last year, where a female experienced an opioid overdose. It was his second call to the same residence and the same person within a 24-hour period. Walking into the house, he saw the female lying on the bed. Her lips were blue and he could see that she was unconscious. Recognizing the signs of an overdose, he quickly initiated CPR and administered naloxone, a medication used to impede the effects of opioids. Shortly after, emergency services arrived and the female regained consciousness. Gamble was able to speak with her about the overdose and provide her with contacts to services relating to substance use disorder.
The OPP’s first priority is to save lives and to promote public safety. Officers provide necessary education and support for individuals looking for assistance with substance use disorder. Help is available through the Community Addiction and Mental Health Services (CAMHS), ConnexOntario and the Government of Ontario helplines, along with location-specific resources.
Gamble speaks about his hope for her future: “You hate to see that, when that happens to anybody not once, but twice. It’s my hope that she made some positive changes in her life.”
Over 100 Lives Saved
The severity of the opioid crisis is evident in the increase of opioid-related overdoses and the number of incidences where officers have had to administer naloxone to save a life. There was a 121 per cent increase in overdose occurrences attended by the OPP from 2016 to 2018. In September 2017, every frontline member was trained in the use of naloxone and provided with a two-dose kit while on shift. Since then, OPP officers have saved 102 lives by administering naloxone
Provincial Constable Troy Noakes has been on the road for three years and has administered naloxone twice. He sees the importance of officers carrying naloxone. ‘When I first came on the job, it was something we talked about a lot and it was in the media, so it was something we were going to prepare ourselves for. It makes me feel prepared for a lot of the situations that you come across, both in a protective way for myself and as a life-saving tool. It’s just as important as everything else we carry as an officer.’ Officers also carry personal protective equipment to ensure they are protected from exposure to potentially lethal substances.
Emergency? Call 9-1-1
Most overdose incidents occur inside a residence, making it difficult for police and emergency services personnel to provide the necessary assistance unless they are called. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA) provides some legal protection for individuals who seek emergency help during an overdose.
‘The OPP recognizes lives are being lost due to the opioid crisis and we are taking action. Saving lives by administering naloxone is just one step. Our officers embody the spirit of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act as they assist and protect overdose victims, while continuing to criminally charge those responsible for trafficking substances that are causing overdoses and sometimes death,’ adds OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
The OPP has created a framework to support those individuals suffering from substance use disorder, while holding drug traffickers who cause these overdoses accountable. Since 2016, the OPP has investigated 13 occurrences where charges have been laid for Manslaughter and/or Criminal Negligence Causing Death in relation to fatal overdoses. Eight of these occurrences were this year alone.
Source: OPP News files