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Fire chief looks to equip first responders with kit that can save lives after opiate OD

With the rise of opiate-related deaths not just nationally, but regionally, city Fire Chief Jim Maxwell is recommending that firefighters and EMTs start carrying medical emergency calls kits that can save lives.

The kits contain doses of naloxone, a drug that counteracts the the most fatal effect of an opiate overdose.

When a person ODs on heroin or an opiate-based prescription medication, the drug shuts down brain function that controls breathing. The person literally forgets to breath. Naloxone stimulates that portion of the brain and the person will start breathing again.

Firefighters have already been trained to recognize the signs of an opiate overdose, but even if they're wrong, naloxone is not harmful if misapplied.

"If it's not an opiate overdose, you can't hurt the patient," Maxwell said. "You can't overdose on it or anything along those lines, so if it's a false recognition and they administer it, it doesn't do anything to the patient."

Naloxone is not a controlled substance, so it needs no additional security to store it and any properly trained emergency personnel can administer it.

The initial investment for the city is from $300 to $400. The kits cost $30 to $50 each. Each kit contains a syringe with an atomizer attached.

A first responder who finds a patient showing signs of an opiate overdose -- no, or labored breathing, and perhaps supported by statements of others with the patients, or evidence found in the location of the patient -- would administer the naloxone through the patient's nose.

Half the dose goes up one nostril, the other half is sprayed up the second nostril.

The City Council is being asked to approve a contract with UMMC for purchase of naloxone and related supplies.

The council will vote on the proposal at its next business meeting.

Maxwell said there are no available statics on opiate-related deaths locally, but a regional report shows a rise of from two in 2011 and 105 in 2013.

Lincoln DeCoursey
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Sounds like a good idea and something that's likely to pay off in terms of a saved life, especially since oftentimes the fire department can respond more quickly than an ambulance.

As a reminder, New York has a 911 Good Samaritan statute which protects a person from being prosecuted for drug or underage alcohol possession when emergency help is summoned for an overdose victim. Both the caller and victim are protected.

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