Overdose Antidote Saving Hundreds of Lives in Pennsylvania
In various cities and states across America politicians and law enforcement have pushed for reforms that have put more power than ever into the hands of first responders and other officials by making anti-overdose medication more available in the presence of a surging heroin epidemic.
Earlier this year Pennsylvania joined the list of states that have created new laws to help support and provide access to overdose antidote medication, and now allows state and local police officers to carry the drug naloxone, which is used to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose.
So far the program is shaping up to be an absolute success, especially in the eyes of the citizens that have been saved, with over 289 people having been treated and survived an overdose thanks to naloxone. State officials were happy to report the numbers and talk about the impact the program has had on their community.
Overdoses on heroin or other opiates such as prescription painkillers are currently the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals than fatal car crashes. This is a trend that is becoming more prominent around the nation, as drug overdoses are killing more and more people every day in America.
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a prescription life-saving medicine that rapidly reverses the effects of an overdose on heroin or other opiates. Recently several states have be evaluating more innovative ways to get this medication out to more resources, and Pennsylvania had plenty of reason to push for their own.
In comes Act 139, also known as David’s Law, allowing first responders to carry and administer naloxone to individuals experiencing an opiate overdose, including:
- Law enforcement
- Fire fighters
- All EMS
This is especially effective for police officers, who are most often first on the scene of an overdose because they are already in their vehicles and driving around when a call for emergency services comes in.
Talking About Saving Lives
Gary Tennis, the state Secretary of Drug & Alcohol Programs, is one advocate for the accessibility of naloxone who recently spoke up about the way this initiative has helped put the fight back in their state officials, stating:
“Pennsylvania has been seeing a sharp increase in drug overdoses across the state. Having naloxone kits in the hands of our first responders who are often first on the scene can make the difference between life and death. We are thrilled with the number of lives saved.”
Tennis went on to emphasize the importance of putting the overdose antidote in the hands of the police, stating:
“Lest any police departments labor under the mistaken belief that EMS always gets there first, it is important to note that the police in Pennsylvania ‘got there first’ 289 times in the last nine months,”
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman also commented on the recent statistics, saying that he actually found the sum of lives saved by the overdose antidote thus far to be “startling” and also said,
“It certainly is a testament to the value of supplying the police with Narcan.”
Stedman wasn’t just startled by the number of overdoses; he was also distressed and possibly a little intimidated, going on to say,
“However, the fact there have been nearly 300 is further proof that heroin is indeed a growing public health crisis and enforcement alone is not going to be the solution.”
Stedman says he hopes that now these individuals can create some positive change after their brushes with death, because they have been given that rare second chance.
Pennsylvania in Pain
According to a new report published by the Pennsylvania Coroner’s Association each day 7 people in Pennsylvania died in 2014 from a drug overdose and in that’s about a0 20% increase from 2013.
In response to the steadily increasing issue 27 Pennsylvania counties have reported that their local police are carrying or will soon be carrying naloxone so far this year, and with results like this it only makes sense. Earlier this year, Governor Tom Wolf announced Pennsylvania State Police would carry naloxone, providing statewide coverage, with supplies funded through the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators.
The funding for local supplies of naloxone provides that each police car carry two naloxone kits, and was donated by several insurance providers across the state. More and more organized efforts in other states are pouring into causes like these, creating more and more hope that the new revolution into the way we handle recovery is here and only getting stronger as the nation turns to new tactics to treat addicts and save lives.
Overdose death is not to be underestimated anymore. Our families and friends are losing the fight against addiction, and there is help out there for those who are willing to take action.
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