First responders may be equipped with drug that reverses overdosing

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Drug overdoses, especially Heroin, have been deadly in the Baton Rouge area, but now, a fast-tracked decision from the F.D.A. could save lives.

Many times, police officers and firefighters are among the first on scene and in some cases, they make it before EMS paramedics. It's why there's a push nationally to equip those first responders with a drug that can reverse a drug overdose and possibly save lives.

"It's called Naloxone. The common name for it is Narcan and this particular medication is used on any suspected overdose on any time of narcotic," said EMS's Mike Chustz.

Chustz said EMS has successfully been using a syringe form of the drug for decades, which can stop any overdose effects within seconds.

In 2012, EMS used 288 doses of Narcan. In 2013, it increased to 359 doses.

Now, the F.D.A. has approved a nasal spray form of the medication.

"Basically, rip it out of the car, pocket or wherever they have it, give you a squirt up through the nasal passage. It works quick, and it can definitely save lives," said Chustz.

With more lives being lost to heroin in the Baton Rouge metro area, East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark said the additional form of emergency treatment is coming at a crucial time.

In 2012, there were five heroin overdose deaths in all of East Baton Rouge Parish. In 2013, 35 people lost their lives to the drug. So far this year, in just three months, eight people have died.

"The main part of this is to try to do anything we can to impact those numbers and save lives," said Dr. Clark.

But it is not a done deal just yet. House Bill 754 is currently going through the Louisiana Legislature. It has already cleared the committee. It's now set to go before the House. Then it will head to the Senate, and if Gov. Bobby Jindal signs it into law, first responders like police officers and firefighters could be equipped with a nasal spray.

"They won't be allowed to use the drug unless they have training and that's explicitly spelled out in the bill that they have to be trained before they can use it," said Dr. Clark.

Wider use is on the minds of some. There is a hope that this treatment can eventually make its way into homes where it can be administered even before first responders get on the scene.

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