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Overdose crisis part of a larger issue according to Moncton officials


A day in the life of a Moncton Firefighter isn’t just about putting out fires, with an average of 25 calls per day, their time is now split 50/50 between fire and medical.

“We average about four to five calls for people experiencing overdose a day, on a daily bases, so that’s definitely increased in the last few years,” said Fire Chief Conrad Landry.

Over the last two years, he says this has been the norm in the city.

“Those numbers are concerning,” he said, saying that his biggest concern is for the people.

“The fact that we’re responding is secondary. We need to take care of these people first.”

Though they’re here to help, the calls raise other concerns for firefighters. Landry says once they arrive on scene, they can’t leave for another call until an ambulance shows up.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time the ambulance is there before us or they’re there two to three minutes after us. So those are very small numbers, but there is for some extreme circumstances that we’ve seen an hour where we’ve had to wait for an ambulance, those are the type of calls that we’re really concerned of,” he said.

Moncton has five fire stations throughout the city, so if one department is held up, another one is usually able to cover.

“To say that there’s been a large delay because of this? So far, no, but of course, there is delay because if one station responds in another station’s territory, of course, that causes a few minute delays for sure,” Landry said.

Seeing smaller numbers, but with no less concern, Ensemble Moncton, which offers harm reduction services, says it’s seen close to 60 overdoses take place at its site in just over a year.

“We, on Friday, had two back-to-back. We’ve had them back to back where we’ve just had the ambulance do a U-turn and come back to us,” said Debby Warren, Ensemble’s executive director.

“Just a week or so ago, I guess it was, actually someone pulled up in their car with someone in their vehicle in overdose coming to us for help,” she adds. “So we’ve had that. We’ve had people out on the sidewalk that we saw didn’t look good, staff ran over and brought them in so we’re having some of those incidents as well.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Warren says every four days a New Brunswicker is dying from substance use, statistics she got from the province of New Brunswick’s data collection source.

“Any New Brunswicker dying is sad, but when you look at the age group… it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Historically our numbers have been between 40 and 39 and there’s some variation, always the exception, [but] this time around it’s 20-year-olds.”

Warren adds that a city shelter has reported 40 overdoses since the end of January.

“We’re in a real crisis,” she said.

Right now, Ensemble’s overdose prevention site is open from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and she hopes they expand in the future.

“An overdose prevention site is to prevent death,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing, right?"

Warren says the province wasn’t prepared for this crisis and says that everyone needs to get on board in order to combat the issue.

“Until we have the proper supports in place, including mental health, and understanding that trauma informs addiction disorders, until we start to address that, you can detox people forever, almost, but we need to have the other backup services,” she said.

It’s a statement that Landry agrees with.

“It’s not for us to solve this problem,” said Landry. “This is a very complex issue that everybody, every level of government, the citizens, everybody needs to be a part of the solution, so we’re just doing our part.”

Adding, “Overdose is a huge concern of the system. Not just the fire department so I think it’s a very complex situation that we all need to put our hands in and try to solve.”

Officials say that the overdose crisis isn’t just for the homeless and vulnerable population, but an epidemic that is impacting people from all walks of life.

On March 15 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Ensemble is hosting a presentation on “the science and ethics of harm reduction as it relates to substance use.” It will include guest speaker Dr. Timothy Christie, the regional director of Ethics Services for Horizon Health Network in New Brunswick.

“We want people to come and learn about harm reduction, and what it is,” said Warren. “I want them all to get mad as hell. I want them to get as passionate about it and as mad as hell as I am about it.”

“We want general people, we’ve got clinicians and service providers coming,” she adds. “There are already over 50 people registered, we have room for 100.” Top Stories

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