Heroin is a growing problem that is leading to an overwhelming number of overdoses and deaths in Pennsylvania, and across the nation.
There is a so-called ‘miracle drug’ paramedics are already using that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
When someone is overdosing on Heroin, seconds count. “They stop breathing. The oxygen stops getting into the system, which is detrimental to the brain, and causes brain damage,” said Dustin Zahm, a Paramedic with York Regional Emergency Medical Services. When paramedics like Zahm arrive, they can administer Narcan, which works almost instantly. “The Narcan sits in the opiate receptor and it bumps the opiate, which is what heroin is, out, so that way the body starts to naturally breath again,” said Zahm.
Narcan can be administered several different ways, but one of the most common is a spray through a person’s nose. “I’m sure if we were administering it via a needle there would be some hesitation, but with a simple spray, you stick it up the person’s nose and spray it up their nose,” said York City Police Chief Wes Kahley.
Chief Kahley is pushing for police to be able to carry and administer the nasal version of Narcan. “We had an occasion a month or so ago, where an officer went to an overdose, arrived on scene and had to give somebody CPR until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance person then gave the Narcan,” said Chief Kahley. Because police officers are usually the first to arrive at a scene, Chief Kahley is pushing for law enforcement to be able to administer Narcan. “That’s what we want to do, is keep people from dying from the overdose, and then be able to deal with the addiction on the back end,” said Chief Kahley. “If we give it to someone and they weren’t having an overdose from heroin or an opioid, it wouldn’t harm them in any way.”
Chief Kahley researched the drug and found that Massachusetts already allows police to carry Narcan. “They’ve had great success with it, as far as going and saving people, and keeping people from dying,” said Chief Kahley.
A bill has been introduced in Pennsylvania that would allow police to carry Narcan.
“Right now we have over 70 co-sponsors on this bill, it had a hearing in the Health Committee and it is moving through the process. It has bipartisan support, both Republicans and Democrats,” said Representative Kevin Schreiber, who is a co-sponsor.
Another part of the bill would give immunity to someone who calls 911 while witnessing an overdose.
The bill needs to pass in the Health Committee before going to the House Floor for a vote.