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RFD saving lives from overdose

Rochester, N.Y. --- For the last two years members of the Rochester Fire Department have been saving lives of people who find themselves, literally, at deaths door because of a drug overdose.  This was possible thanks to a pilot program that equipped firefighters with a drug called Narcan, a naloxone injection.

The drug is an inhalant that when administered to a patient who is suffering from an opioid overdose it can instantly stabilize them.  In non-scientific terms, the drug attacks the opioids in the body that will eventually (and sometimes rapidly) shut down a persons respiratory system.

"It's a life-saving tool and it's an easy tool to administer and it's actually very effective," said Rochester Firefighter Fred Denunzio. 

In September 2012 Denunzio and fellow firefighter Broderick Walker were part of a company that was called to a gorge rescue at the Lower Falls in Rochester.  It was there that they found an unconscious man in a precarious position at the falls.

"He was with his friend who had indicated that they had been using heroin," recalled Denunzio.

"One of the things that we do have at our disposal is a defibrillator but again it came in as near the water so that's one of those situations where you're near the water and electricity you don't want to use that, added Broderick Walker.  It would've made it difficult without the Narcan."

"We were able to, with the use of it, convert him quickly and actually get him to his feet within minutes and we were able to assist him on his feet out of the dangerous situation," said Denunzio of this life-saving effort.

"I was really impressed that he was able to get out, with some assistance, and walk out," said Walker.

It was a pilot program that put Narcan in the hands of these Rochester firefighters, along with EMTs from Rural Metro.  Rochester was the largest municipality in the State of New York to participate in the program and the only community west of Interstate-81.

The program involved equipping Basic Life Support (BLS) personnel such as firefighters with Narcan because in many situations BLS providers are on scene before Advanced Life Support (ALS) personnel who are equipped to handle these situations.

"We have a lot more Basic Life Support providers than we do Advanced Life Support providers so we're out there, we're usually at the patient first," said Lt. Jeff Krywy of RFDs Emergency Medical Services Office.

The first administration of Narcan was in August 2012 and by the end of 2012 the drug had been deployed 19 times in Rochester. 

In 2013 the drug was deployed 72 times, roughly six times per-month.

"We've had about a hundred administrations of the medication since the start of the program and out of them there have only been about three or four that did not have a positive outcome," said Lt. Krywy.

The pilot program ended this year and it was such as success that Rochester continues to use the drug.  Other agencies in New York State can also apply to use the drug but approvals may depend on statistics regarding the number of overdose cases handled by agencies.

Narcan is effective against patients suffering from any number of opioid overdose cases, be it Heroin or Morphine or Oxycodone.

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Washington Times