Let jail staff carry opioid OD antidote, top doc urges

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The region’s top health official is calling on all London jail staff to carry the overdose drug naloxone in the wake of a weekend of trouble and the death of one man at the provincial jail in the city.

“Nobody should be dying in a highly controlled environment like that. Naloxone should be everywhere,” Christopher Mackie, Middlesex-London’s medical officer of health, said Wednesday.

“It is very safe medically. There is no abuse potential. It is something that can save a life and it should be everywhere.”

Only nurses carry and administer naloxone now, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

“Naloxone is available at all 26 provincial correctional facilities. All nursing staff have access to naloxone and would administer the medication when appropriate,” Andrew Morrison said in an email.

“Where necessary, inmates in medical distress are taken to local hospitals by paramedics (accompanied by correctional officers) for further care and treatment,” he said.

Correctional officers at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) say they battled three opioid drug overdoses last weekend and suggested being able to carry naloxone — in an easy-to-use nasal spray — might save lives.

One inmate, Mike Fall, 47, died Sunday after being found unresponsive in his cell.

“Mike was a loving father of one son. He had a great sense of humour and was loyal to his family,” said one close relative, who did not want to be identified.

Fall’s family cautioned that he had a serious heart condition that might have caused the death, and the investigation, including the autopsy and toxicology tests, hasn’t been completed.

He had an “extremely compromised heart issue,” the relative said.

Even so, the relative said EMDC needs to make sure naloxone is available and easily accessible to employees because of the overdoses there.

“It’s a crisis. People are being left to die,” the relative said.

Fall is the second inmate to die at EMDC in the past two months, and the seventh in the last five years.

In June, 52-year-old Raymond George Major died of suicide after what an inmate described as a nightmarish withdrawal from drugs.

Both deaths raised questions about health care, addiction treatment, lockdowns, staffing levels and supervision at EMDC.

Correctional officers have long warned that EMDC, like other Ontario jails, is turning into warehousing for people with mental illnesses and addictions.

The spread of new and deadlier opioids, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, have officers on edge.

Naloxone, administered by injection or a relatively new nasal spray, can stop an opioid overdose.

Relying on nurses to administer naxolone can delay help, correctional officers told The Free Press.

Correctional officers have the most frequent and regular interaction with inmates, while nurses usually visit ranges only to dispense medications and only if accompanied by officers.

rrichmond@postmedia.com

twitter.com/RandyRatLFPress


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