Conn. firefighters get Narcan after jump in overdoses

Crews administer Narcan an average of twice a day to bring overdose victims back from the brink of death

Connecticut Post

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — City firefighters are administering naloxone hydrochloride, commonly known as Narcan, an average of twice a day to bring overdose victims back from the brink of death.

“It was maybe every other day last year,’’ Bridgeport Fire Chief Richard Thode said Wednesday at a midday press conference, “so you can see what we’re dealing with.’’

The increase in just one year is partly due to the presence of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is sometimes mixed with heroin for street sales, Thode said.

“Heroin isn’t made in a pharmacy, it’s made in an illegal lab, and so it’s never the same,’’ the fire chief said.

“If a bad batch hits the streets, we’ll see a spike in ODs,’’ he said, like the 20 cases over two days in New Haven this summer.

Thode and Mayor Joe Ganim accepted 400 doses of the lifesaving antidote, worth more than $16,000, from the Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program. The G-BAPP and the Recovery Networkoperate the city’s syringe-exchange program for the state Department of Public Health, which provided the medication.

Each bright-red zippered pouch contains two doses of naloxone hydrochloride, one in a syringe and another in an inhaler, along with alcohol wipes and gloves.

Narcan and its generic form, according to the website, “prevents or reverses the effects of opioids including respiratory depression, sedation and hypotension.’’

Family members can be provided the drug to administer to family members with a known addiction, under the state’s Good Samaritan law, said Nancy Kingwood of G-BAPP. There are 814 Bridgeport residents in the syringe exchange program, that provides clean needles to addicts, she said.

A state law passed in 2014 provided civil and criminal liability protection to anyone who administered Narcan in good faith to an individual experiencing an overdose.

“We wish we didn’t have this problem, but we do, and it’s not just Bridgeport, it’s all over the country,’’ Ganim said. “People get pain medications from their doctors when they need them, but there is a connection between prescription drugs and (the use of) heroin. This can happen to anyone.’’

Bridgeport police officers do not carry Narcan, Capt. Mark Straubel said.

“The towns where police carry it have volunteer fire departments and ambulance service,” he said. “In Bridgeport we have a professional fire department and AMR Ambulance Co., so police here are generally not the first medical responders.

“I am very confident that our citizens are not endangered because police do not carry Narcan,’’ Straubel said. “That being said, we are taking a serious look at it, including the cost of training.’’

Police Chief Armando Perez said his administration is in discussions with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency about funding for Bridgeport police to be trained in the use of Narcan and for supplies of the medication.

Police in Trumbull and Monroe carry the drug, and officers in each town have been credited with saving at least one life by administering naloxone hydrochloride.

State Police also carry the drug, and have saved 100 lives over the past two years, Gov. Dannel Malloy said last month.

There were 415 deaths involving heroin in Connecticut last year, a steep increase from the 195 in 2012, according to statistics from the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner. The jump in fentanyl-related deaths was even more pronounced: 146 last year compared to 14 in 2012.

The number of heroin-related deaths nationally has increased six-fold between 2001 and 2014, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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