3 saved in 3 days
Narcan training for area law, fire agencies Monday
Turners Falls firefighter Mike Currie demonstrates how a Narcan dosage is assembled in a department ambulance. Currie has been to several overdose calls where responders administered Narcan and said it was amazing how quickly the drug brings near comatose people back to consciousness.
Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
A single dose of the opioid overdose antidote Naloxone hydrochloride, commonly know by the brand name Narcan, in a nasal spray device. This dose was obtained at a Tapestry Health training session last year. Purchase photo reprints »
DEERFIELD — Police say Narcan carried by friends and paramedics saved three people in three days from heroin overdoses in this small town this week, and there will soon be more of the overdose antidote in the hands of local firefighters and police officers.
Deerfield Chief of Police John Paciorek Jr. is one of the area police and fire chiefs sending employees to an instructor training Monday hosted by the Northwestern District Attorney Office in the South Deerfield fire station.
“There will be many, many different agencies represented there, it went out to all area police chiefs and fire chiefs over the past few weeks,” Paciorek said.
The officers trained on Monday will then train their colleagues in the use of the simple heroin and opioid overdose antidote.
“We’ll be on board as soon as we get personnel up and trained ... we’ll actually carry it in every cruiser we have, in every first aid kit ... there’ll be one to two doses in there because a dose can wear off in 20 minutes,” Paciorek said.
Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh said he is sending three people. “The plan is to have (Narcan) available for each cruiser,” he said. “July 1 is the target time, hopefully before that.”
A policy has been developed and is in review between the department administration, union and mayor, Haigh said, and then it will be a matter of acquiring doses of the chemical that is a temporary antidote but not a cure for addiction.
Narcan is a temporary solution to what Haigh hopes will be a temporary problem.
“It’s here, we don’t want it to stay — so we’ve got to save lives the best we can until we can really get to the root of the problem with prevention, education and treatment,” Haigh said.
Paciorek said District Attorney David Sullivan is partnering with police chiefs to cover all or part of the cost of the antidote. “In Deerfield no matter what it takes we’ll go ahead and purchase it, it’s relatively inexpensive $30 to $35 per dose, so even if I stick one dose in a car, I have six cruisers, $180, $200, $220 it’s minuscule money compared to somebody’s life,” Paciorek said.
The governor’s declaration of an opioid public health emergency included blanket permission for first responders to carry and administer Narcan, or naloxone hydrochloride, removing concerns of litigation.
Athol police had already begun down this road in mid winter, as overdoses surged.
In their slice of Montague, the Turners Falls Fire Department responds to all medical calls with its own ambulance. The ambulance is a secondary service, only transporting patients if the Baystate Health Ambulance service is not available, but the mini-ambulance carries Narcan among the epinephrine and other medications the department’s EMTs are authorized to administer. Capt. John Zellman said the department went through training with the antidote several months ago, before the push for universal Narcan from the governor and lawmakers, enabled by their status as an ambulance service.
The full-time firefighters, all of whom are EMTs, work under the auspices of the Baystate Franklin Medical Center emergency services medical director.
Zellman said the firefighter-EMTs have a list of procedures they are allowed to perform, anything beyond that takes a call to the hospital, and some require a medical intercept — meaning they transport a patient but are joined by a paramedic en route.
“The medical control doctor was proactive and said ‘yes,’ he’s willing to let basic EMTs administer Narcan as a standing order — prior to this first responder push here — and that’s who we work under,” Zellman said.
The number of opioid overdoses has slowed from this winter’s surge, and Zellman said firefighters have not yet been called on to use the nasal spray. There have been overdoses, but family members have administered Narcan first. Zellman counted nine survived overdoses and a death that may or may not have been an overdose.
“We’ve had overdoses — family members have given Narcan because they’re able to get it — none that we’ve had to use our own medication with though,” he said.
Turners Falls Fire Department covers the villages of Turners Falls, Montague City and Millers Falls and responds through mutual aid agreements to the other villages and neighboring towns.
Greenfield firefighters have also been recently trained in Narcan use, but have not yet begun to carry it.
Deputy Chief Edward Jarvis said the plan is to eventually carry the drug.
For potential bystanders, a brief training is required to receive Narcan through the free state program. The training and doses are available by appointment from Tapestry Health’s Greenfield office at 80 Sanderson St.
To schedule an appointment, call Tapestry Health at 413-773-8888.
You can reach Chris Curtis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 257