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Collaboration earns Narcan kits for first responders

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

Clinton County first responders now have access to 100 naxolone kits as a safeguard in case of incidental exposure to powerful opioids such as fentanyl or carfentanyl when assisting overdose patients.

The kits, branded under the trade name Narcan, were acquired from the Indiana Department of Health through a grant funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration. 

Rodney Wann, administrator for the Clinton County Health Department, said a conversation initiated by county EMS Director Greg Miller led to the application for the grant, which was prepared by Lorra Archibald, executive director of Healthy Communities of Clinton County.

“We applied for 100 kits, and we were awarded 100 kits,” said Archibald, crediting the collaboration between the three county entities as the reason they were able to obtain the live-saving resource.

Wann said the quantity represented about $7,000 that the Health Department or EMS would have spent to purchase the kits themselves. 

“But in terms of saving lives, they’re priceless,” said Archibald.

She emphasized that the kits were obtained to provide additional dosages in case a responder comes in contact with opioid residue which causes he or she to overdose at the scene. 

“Not just citizens but also first responders will be served with these kits,” she said.

“A first responder may need the last kit, so we want to ensure they have all the kits they need. People don’t understand that our first responders are now risking their own lives through incidental exposure.”

Each of the boxes contains two doses of the opioid antidote used to get a victim’s breathing restarted.

Miller said in 2017 EMS documented 74 cases in which naloxone was administered. “Sometime multiple doses have to be used on patients,” he added. 

The kits received from the grant will be distributed to EMS personnel, law enforcement and other first responders. 

“There are documented cases of fetanyl exposure overdoses in which Narcan has been used,” said Miller.

Fetanyl is 100 times more potent than heroin and carfetanyl is 1000 times more powerful than fetanyl, said Wann. 

According to Paramedic Kevin Redding, “It’s not unusual any more to have a call on an OD or exposure. I never foresaw fetanyl coming in to play.”

Redding, who also works as a first responder for Howard County, said the problem is even worse there. “It’s scare. We see three times as much in Howard County and Kokomo than here.”

Redding said he has heard people question why naloxone is free to addicts but chemotherapy isn’t free to cancer patients. “Others say we should adopt a ‘one and done’ approach.”

But the naysayers usually are insulated from the realities of the epidemic, Wann observed. “We’re in the trenches.”

Archibald said each spray of naloxone that resuscitates a victim could be described as a “burst of hope.” 

“This overdose might be their ‘bottom’ that gets them to realize they need to seek help,” she explained.

“No one intends to overdose,” Redding emphasized. “They know how much they use. So when they overdose, I ask, ‘Did you get this from a different supplier?’”

The victim’s answer is almost always “yes,” he said. 

“It’s not as if they get this (drug) from a pharmacist,” Archibald said. “They get it from drug dealers who want to make money.”