Narcan use allowed for overdoses

State Rep. Tony Hwang, along with members of the Fairfield fire and police departments, held an informational press conference on the use of the life-saving drug naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, by front-line first responders in combating heroin overdose.

At the Reef Road firehouse, Hwang, firefighter Jerry McGuire and AMR paramedic Bill Schietinger announced that the state Department of Public Health will allow all trained first responders to carry naloxone, a non-addictive drug that binds to and blocks opiate receptors, temporarily reversing the effects of heroin overdose.

Under current Connecticut state law and regulations, only skilled paramedics are authorized to carry Narcan, thereby limiting a critical tool for fire and police first responders in saving lives.

“I advocated on behest of our fire and police first responders and worked with the commissioner of public health, along with the medical advisory board, to make the necessary ‘scope of practice’ change while ensuring the highest standard of quality assurance through training,” Hwang said. “Heroin/opiate poisoning and overdose deaths impact the lives of so many Connecticut residents and I am thrilled to provide the tools for our first responders to save more lives and prevent the latest tragedy of deaths from the rising epidemic of heroin/opiate abuse in our communities.”

Opiate overdose or poisoning has annually claimed nearly 40,000 lives in the United States, overtaking auto accidents as the highest cause of accidental deaths. In Connecticut, 257 people died from heroin-related overdoses last year, up from 174 in 2012, according to the state’s chief medical examiner’s office.

McGuire began working with Hwang in February to change the state’s scope of practice regulations. Previously, only paramedics were allowed to carry and use naloxone.

“Within three to four weeks after talking with Rep. Hwang about the proposed change in the scope of practice, I got a call that everything was moving forward and we got it approved, and we’re going to see it carried on fire trucks probably by Sept. 1,” McGuire said.

Allowing all first responders to train on use and carry naloxone means the antidote to an opiate overdose can be given to a victim in a matter of minutes. Naloxone is a reversing agent for the opiate or narcotic which allows victims to start breathing on their own.

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