Opioid overdose-reversing medication, naloxone, will soon be available on the TTC
The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Philadelphia. Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada locations across the country are getting a free supply of an opioid overdose-reversing drug. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Rourke
Published Tuesday, September 12, 2023 3:58PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 12, 2023 5:15PM EDT
Naloxone, a medication that can quickly reverse and/or reduce the effects of an opioid overdose, will soon be available on the TTC.
Starting on Friday, nasal spray kits can be found in collector booths and hubs in TTC stations.
More than 100 special constables will also be carrying the potentially life-saving medication on their person.
In addition to making naloxone available, the transit agency is also in the midst of providing training in first aid and the safe administration of the drug, which is commercially known as Narcan, to more than 700 of its workers.
Late Tuesday afternoon, TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green told CP24 that offering naloxone at subway stations is “another opportunity to extend the safety and security for our customers and our employees.”
“You know, it's similar to what was done many years ago with the defibrillators in public places. You know, we know that there are thankfully not a lot of incidents on the TTC that require the intervention of naloxone, but we do know that a couple of months ago we had special constables administer naloxone to save a life so it can't happen on the TTC and we're just making sure that we have that life saving equipment available should it be needed,” he said.
Green went on to note that at this time, they’re focusing on offering naloxone at the “heaviest traffic areas and as well as places where people are trained to use it,” which are subway stations, but are open to expanding it, as needed “over time.”
“So regular operators wouldn't be trained to use naloxone. It’s not like a defibrillator where any member of the public can use it, it does require some specialized training,” he said, adding the focus is on ensuring that they have the “people to administer it as well as having the equipment available.”
In a Sept. 12 news release, TTC Chair Jamaal Myers said that he's pleased that the overdose-reversing drug is being offered on the transit system and that a "comprehensive approach" is being taken to ensure staff know how to recognize the signs of overdose and administer naloxone safely.
"Health and safety is one of the TTC's priorities. This announcement is a step towards not only increasing safety but also has the potential to save lives," he said.
Mayor Olivia Chow agreed.
“If administered in time, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and save a person’s life,” she said in a release.
“An overdose can occur anywhere, so it’s important to know that help is immediately available if you think you're witnessing an opioid overdose in a TTC station. I thank the TTC for making naloxone available in all subway stations.”
TTC CEO Rick Leary said anyone using the city’s public transit system who witnesses a person experiencing an overdose should alert TTC staff “who will immediately call for emergency services.”
Symptoms of an opioid overdose may include slow, irregular and shallow respirations, pinpoint pupils, muscle rigidity, seizures and unconsciousness leading to coma as well as dizziness, drowsiness, headache, sleepiness, nausea, and vomiting.
“Designated TTC staff will then initiate the emergency response using naloxone. Staff may also provide the naloxone to a bystander who volunteers to administer it,” Leary said in a release.
The TTC said that this latest step, which is being undertaken in partnership with the City of Toronto, is another way that it is working to “ensure people receive the health and social supports they need after crisis de-escalation and emergency response are complete.”
Other measures taken by the TTC in recent months include a one-year pilot project with LOFT and M-DOT support services to provide mental health crisis supports.
A number of support workers have also been retained, including 20 from Streets to Homes to help individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness access immediate supports like water, warm clothing, and referrals to indoor space, 20 Community Safety Ambassadors charged with “bolstering the work of Streets to Homes teams in addressing immediate needs of individuals experiencing homelessness,” and 50 security guards trained in mental health first aid, overdose prevention, and nonviolent intervention to help people in crisis.
Further, all TTC chief and mobile supervisors are receiving de-escalation training.
Scheduling adjustments are also being made to “ensure these specialized skills are where they are needed most,” the TTC noted.