- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - As the number of heroin overdoses increases, more first responders are being trained and equipped to use a life-saving drug.

In Stamford, schedules are being drawn up for training the city’s 264 career firefighters in the use of naloxone hydrochloride, a drug commonly known as Narcan, that reverses the effects of opioids like heroin and oxycodone.

Assistant Fire Chief Trevor Roach said the firefighters, who respond to every serious medical call in the city, may all be trained to carry Narcan by the end of January.

Darien police, who respond to every medical call in town, are considering putting the drug in their cruisers, and New Canaan officers are now being trained to carry the opioid antidote.

Overdose deaths due to opioids in the state rose from 195 in 2012 to 284 in 2013. Heroin was the culprit in 86 of the deaths in 2012 and 109 deaths in 2013. In Fairfield County, heroin fatalities jumped over 50 percent from 21 in 2012 to 34 in 2013.

The turning point in first responders use of Narcan was the enactment on Oct. 1 of the state’s so called Good Samaritan law, which provides civil and criminal immunity to anyone administering a drug such as Narcan to someone experiencing an opioid-related overdose. Before that, only licensed health care practitioners were allowed to administer the drug.

Dr. Douglas Gallo, the medical director of Stamford Emergency Medical Services, who supervises what medical care firefighters and police can provide on the job, said Stamford firefighters recognized the value of carrying Narcan, and he endorsed the idea.

“While the paramedic crew in Stamford are excellent and have been capable of administering Narcan for years, the fact is the faster the drug can be administered, the better and by having first responders acting in advance of medics, they can perform potentially live-saving interventions,” he said.

Gallo said that in some cases when firefighters get to calls before medics, they could begin the treatment that could mean all the difference.

City police, who do not respond to medical calls in the city unless they are asked have no plans at this point to carry it, but the department is looking into the possibility, said Assistant Chief Timothy Shaw.

Greenwich Emergency Medical Services deputy director Art Romano said Greenwich paramedics have been carrying Narcan for 28 years.

He said paramedics have had excellent success rates in resuscitating overdose victims there. From Jan. 1 to Nov. 1 Narcan was administered to 26 overdose victims and they are universally successful in reversing the effects of opiate overdoses, if they get the call in time.

But Romano said in Greenwich, where police go to every emergency medical call, there are no plans to get police to carry the drug.

“We have had such a high level of success all these years, besides we literally go together on all these calls and we have a very high success rate,” Romano said.

On Oct. 30, GEMS medics saved an 18-year-old Glenville man suffering from an overdose.

Danbury Emergency Medical Services Director Mathew Cassavechia said there are no immediate plans to put Narcan in police or firefighting hands in Danbury.

He said Danbury firefighters, who are all trained as emergency medical technicians and know how to spot opioid overdoses can begin resuscitation before medics arrive.

He said there has been some interest in getting Narcan to first responders, and they will assess each request and work with fire and police to properly vet those requests as they are made.

“We are confident in our first responders, that they can deal with any medical emergency prior to the paramedic’s arrival,” he said.

But Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said his officers are well on the way to carrying Narcan. Because of the rural environment, Fuchs said his cruisers already carry defibrillators and oxygen and every one of his 17 officers are trained Emergency Medical Responders.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://www.stamfordadvocate.com


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