Police officers free to help using naloxone


A government regulatory amendment in Ontario will enable police officers to administer naloxone to save victims of opioid overdoses, without facing automatic criminal investigation if unsuccessful. The change is designed to help police officers save lives by enabling them to carry and administer naloxone in response to opioid overdoses, like other first responders, who do not have to worry about routinely being the subject of a criminal investigation.

“No one should face unfair repercussions just because they are doing their job and trying to save a life,” said Sylvia Jones, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. “This amendment will enable police officers to carry out their duties without fear of facing a criminal investigation, but more importantly, it will also help save countless lives.”

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. With this change, Chiefs of Police will no longer 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.

The SIU is a police oversight body, independent of the police, that conducts criminal investigations into circumstances involving police and civilians that have resulted in serious injury or death. The SIU will continue to investigate civilian deaths where other factors are present (e.g. if there was any use of force against the person who received the naloxone, or if a person dies while in police custody/detention).

“As first responders, police provide critical life-saving treatment to individuals in crisis,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “This amendment under the Police Services Act provides fairness to police officers and will allow for a more efficient and effective use of investigative resources.”

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: they try to save a life.

“Our government’s overriding priority is to ensure that all efforts to combat opioid addiction are designed to introduce people into rehabilitation and that those struggling with addiction get the help they need,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “This amendment under the Police Services Act will allow our police officers to provide life-saving interventions when overdoses occur unencumbered by overly restrictive regulations. This is the right thing to do for our police officers who are key first responders in the opioid crisis.”

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose (e.g., fentanyl, oxycodone, heroin) if used within a short period following an opioid overdose. Naloxone does not affect non-opioids. Administering naloxone to a person who is unconscious because of a non-opioid overdose, or for other reasons, is unlikely to create harm.

Dr. Kim Corace, the Director of Clinical Programming and Research Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders Program and Regional Opioid Intervention Service at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, emphasised the urgency of the situation facing the community: “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.”


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