Government workers handling N.S. criminals raising red flags about fentanyl
Those working in Nova Scotia’s criminal justice system are adding to the long list of groups raising concerns about fentanyl, claiming more needs to be done to protect its members.
The opioid painkiller is said to be hundreds of times more powerful than heroin, with a couple of grains being more than enough to be lethal.
The union representing jail guards and sheriffs in Nova Scotia says its members are getting worried about potential exposure to the drug.
“Our members are great. They're doing their job as is,” said Jason MacLean, president of the NSGEU. “But what they're doing is asking for the employer to back them, and they're waiting right now to hear, are they going to be given the tools to deal with it is they happen to come in contact with fentanyl?"
Fentanyl has proven to be a much bigger problem on Canada's west coast than in the Maritimes, with more than 750 British Columbians overdosing in 2016 alone.
Police in the east coast say they’re taking steps to protect officers. Earlier in December, Halifax police started equipping officers with a fast-acting fentanyl antidote.
Cape Breton police have ordered the nasal spray, which works even faster.
“Here in Nova Scotia we're just beginning to see a bit of it here, so we've been mobilizing,” Halifax Deputy Chief Bill Moore said.
Government insists it is taking action by creating a comprehensive plan to deal with opioid abuse.
"Leading a law enforcement working group tied to the police, corrections and sheriff services for the provincial response,” a spokesperson for the justice department told CTV News in a statement.
“We are looking at what other jurisdictions are doing, and what makes sense here. We will bring recommendations forward to government in the new year."
Union representatives hope plans are in place early in 2017 to help deal with an epidemic generating a lot of destruction and fear.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.