On Tuesday, November 13th, MPP Bill Walker, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, announced that Ontario’s Government for the People is helping police officers in Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound and across the province to save lives by enabling them to administer naloxone to suspected opioid overdoses like other first responders.
“Our government is making these changes to ensure police don’t face unfair repercussions when they are doing their job as first responders trying to save lives,” Minister Walker said. “This change will help save countless lives while making sure police officers can do their duty without the fear of facing a criminal investigation.”
The province has amended Ontario Regulation 267/10, a key regulation under the current Police Services Act. Previously, police have been required to report to and be investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in an incident in which a civilian dies after naloxone is administered. After this change, Chiefs of Police no longer will be required to automatically notify SIU when a police officer has administered naloxone or other emergency first-aid to a person who dies or suffers a serious injury, provided there was no other interaction that could have caused the death or serious injury.
Police officers will now be on par with other emergency first responders – such as paramedics or firefighters – who can carry and administer naloxone but are not subject to the same level of oversight. This is a significant change as police officers are often the first to arrive on the scene in a medical emergency and do what any first responder would do: to try to save a life.
“Today’s announcement is one of the first steps to fulfilling our election commitment to support our police officers and fix Ontario’s broken policing legislation,” Minister Walker said. “We are continuing our work with law enforcement to keep our streets and communities safe and respect the ongoing work of frontline policing services.”
“On behalf of the Police Association of Ontario’s (PAO) 18,000 sworn and civilian front-line police personnel members, today’s regulation update announcement by the Ontario Government is welcome news. The PAO has long-wondered why, when all first responders (firefighters, paramedics, police officers, health care professionals) are equipped and trained to administer naloxone to a person experiencing an overdose, that police officers are the only profession subjected to an investigation if the recipient of the life-saving treatment still dies from the overdose. We are pleased the provincial government recognizes how integral frontline police personnel are in the fight against this growing opioid crisis. Our members are committed to keeping Ontario’s communities safe and saving lives,” says Bruce Chapman, President of the Police Association of Ontario.
“Ontario’s police leaders welcome today’s announcement, which puts saving lives first. The OACP has always maintained that our police officers deploy naloxone to save the lives of individuals who may be experiencing a drug overdose. This regulatory change will allow our frontline personnel to continue to uphold their responsibility to save lives without the concern of being subjected to an SIU investigation.”
Chief Kimberley Greenwood, President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
“When this regulation was written, naloxone was rarely used as a life saving measure. We are very pleased that the government is taking a fair and common sense approach to oversight with this update to the Police Services Act.”
Rob Jamieson, President, Ontario Provincial Police Association
“The Toronto Police Services Board welcomes this important change to the regulation as we try to deal with the unprecedented challenges associated with opioid use in our city. This exemption will benefit both members of the community who require life-saving intervention, as well as police officers who are acting to administer this critical intervention.”
Andy Pringle, Chair, Toronto Police Services Board
“Last year, the opioid crisis claimed the lives of more than 1,250 Ontarians, and devastated countless others. Naloxone is a crucial life saving measure to help address this epidemic. We welcome this change in regulation which will enable police officers on the front lines to administer naloxone without hesitation or fear of reprisal. Bottom line is that this will help save lives.”
Dr. Kim Corace, Director of Clinical Programming and Research
Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders Program and
Regional Opioid Intervention Service, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre
“This new regulatory exemption to the reporting of incidents of civilian death or serious injury where naloxone is administered, and when the cause of death is only due to the overdose, is long overdue. This change will benefit those whose lives are at risk during overdoses, as well as serve to promote the wellbeing of police officers.”
Dave Gallson, National Executive Director, Mood Disorders Society of Canada
“When administering naloxone to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, every second is important. CAMH supports this regulation and any measure that enhances the ability of police officers and emergency personnel to respond to the opioid crisis in Ontario.”
Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
“In the midst of an opioid crisis that is killing thousands of people across Canada every year; this is positive news as the existing regulation works against both police officers trying to save lives and drug users suffering the overdose. Other first responders who administer naloxone are not subject to investigation, but police officers endure additional oversight for providing immediate life-saving medical care to a person. Police officers are committed to public safety and continuously put the interests of the public before any personal interests, and this amendment helps support their dedication to continuing to do their job effectively without fear from oversight when they are trying to save lives.”
Ann Marie Mac Donald, Executive Director/CEO
Mood Disorders Association of Ontario