An antidote for people overdosing on heroin and prescription pills was unanimously approved Wednesday by the state Legislature for use by firefighters and police in a pilot program in Lorain County.
“We’ll be able to be a role model for the rest of the state of Ohio,” said state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, who sponsored the bill allowing the use of Narcan.
Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a synthetic narcotic that blocks the effects of opiates like heroin on the nervous system. Narcan comes in a nasal spray.
Until the bill is signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, which Manning said she expects to happen soon, only paramedics in Ohio are authorized to use Narcan. Manning said the program should begin within 90 days of Kasich signing the bill.
Manning sponsored the bill at the behest of Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera and Dr. Stephen Evans, Lorain County coroner. Both were alarmed by the spike in fatal heroin and prescription pill overdoses last year.
There were 60 fatal overdoses last year compared to 22 in 2010 and 22 in 2011. There had been 28 fatal overdoses this year through Tuesday, according to Evans.
Evans is part of a group called Lorain County DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), which is seeking money from community groups to pay for Narcan kits and training. Evans said the kits cost about $20 each, and training, which can be done by paramedics, takes about an hour.
Evans said members of the Lorain County Police Chiefs Association expressed interest prior to passage of the bill and he is hopeful county police departments will take part.
“To me, it makes perfect sense,” he said. “If you have a chance to save somebody’s life, why wouldn’t you do it?”
Nonetheless, Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said he needs to research Narcan and speak with Evans before deciding if his department will take part.
“I’ve got some learning to do,” he said.
While Whitely expressed uncertainty, Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh of the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office said his officers want to take part. Rivera said his officers are also on board and he wishes the bill could’ve passed sooner.
Rivera said he also wishes the bill would’ve allowed private citizens to use Narcan. He said friends and relatives of addicts are often reluctant to call authorities when an overdose is occurring because they fear police will arrest the addict. Rivera said that’s not the case.
“We’re just concerned about saving lives,” he said. “Nobody should die because of an addiction.”
Overdoses and the use of Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, a synthetic narcotic that blocks the effects of opiates like heroin on the nervous system, have risen in Lorain County.
- 2009: 1,265
- 2010: 1,795
- 2011: 1,825
- 2012: 1,962 (through Dec. 24, 2012)
- 2009: 200
- 2010: 193
- 2011: 212
- 2012: 373 (through Dec. 24, 2012)
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.