Call it good timing that Alannah Fricker, a trained harm reduction activist, happened to be at Yonge station on March 14, waiting to catch her subway ride home.
Fricker noticed a man, lying unconscious on a bench surrounded by TTC employees. Skipping her subway ride, Fricker approached the scene to ask whether they needed her help.
“I went over to ask if the person was okay and they said he was unresponsive,” she recalls. “I asked if it was an overdose, particularly an opioid overdose, and they said he was probably intoxicated with alcohol and was having alcohol poisoning.”
Fricker says TTC employees informed her they had called EMS but after a sternum rub, typically used to awaken an unconscious victim, the man wasn’t responding. She asked if they had Naloxone kits.
“They all responded that no, they didn’t have Naloxone, there’s no Naloxone in the station. They’re not allowed to use it,” the harm reduction activist said.
After waiting for 30 min for EMS to respond to a poisoning/#overdose on the #ttc today, I am wondering why supervisors, constables, and operators are not trained in overdose recognition/response & not carrying #naloxone. Shameful & putting lives at risk. @TTChelps @cityoftoronto
— Alannah Fricker (@atfricker) March 14, 2019
Although TTC employees receive CPR training and they have access to a defibrillator at each station, they have not had any training regarding overdose prevention, she was told by a TTC supervisor.
Fricker says EMS arrived on scene 30 minutes after the call was sent out. By that time the victim had regained consciousness, his breathing had become deeper and more regular, Fricker recalls.
He was fortunate, she says, since her experience as a harm reduction worker showed her 30 minutes could be too long to wait for medical assistance in some cases.
“I was shocked nobody was carrying Naloxone. There’s none in the TTC anywhere. Nobody has any. They’re not allowed to use it.”
Fricker says she was told by one TTC employee, who had taken Naloxone training on his personal time, that he was not allowed to carry it on the job due to liability concerns.
In a later tweet, Fricker said the “liability concern here should not be with using Naloxone,” but it should be with letting someone die.
The TTC would not discuss the incident Fricker was involved in, but a spokesperson said, “The TTC is committed to providing a safe journey for all our customers.”
Kadeem Griffiths said, “We have been in talks about having our Special Constables trained on how to administer Naloxone for some time now. We will need to do extensive consultation, both internally and externally, before we make any decisions.”
EMS has paramedics in the subway system during morning and evening peak times. “They remain — and will remain — the best equipped to deal with medical issues on the system,” Griffiths said.