York Fire Department uses up 200 doses of overdose reversal drug Naloxone in nine months

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YORK, Pa.-- Stopping the opioid epidemic may seem like a never ending battle for people who work on the frontlines of health and emergency services.

At a rate of more than one a day, the York City Fire Department has used up a grant of the opioid antidote Naloxone, and the year is far from over.

Some see a few positive numbers in looking at those stats, but the fire department isn't the only emergency services provider affected by the epidemic.

White Rose Ambulance vice-president of operations Ted Hake said "White Rose Ambulance has administered Naloxone 362 times in the first nine months of this year."

In January 2017, the York City Bureau of Health granted the York City Department of Fire a supply of 200 doses of Naloxone to save opioid overdose victims.

Nearly nine months later, York City Department of Fire/Rescue Services deputy chief Chad Deardorff said those doses are all gone.

"I honestly believed that we would believed that we would be having to discard some of them from being expired. I was not expecting to utilize them, and surely not by the beginning of October," Deardorff said.

The opioid epidemic in York City may have taken 200 doses from the fire department, but some say those numbers are worth it.

"On the flip side of that, we do have factual numbers that we're around 90 people that we revived as well, along with the assistance of EMS and the police department," Deardorff said.

York City Bureau of Health medical director Dr. Matt Howie said "before we were able to get them that grant, they were administering zero doses, because they had none of the medications on their units. It just wasn't a part of their repertoire. They were managing airways. They were getting EMS to the scene so EMS could provide those services."

"Narcan does not save people who do not have a pulse. it does not save the dead. It saves people who are still alive, but are breathing very inadequately," Hake said.

Meanwhile, the York/Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission gave York City Fire access to a new supply of the Narcan brand of Naloxone nasal spray. That grant also helps White Rose Ambulance save money.

"Every dose that police and fire give, is one less dose that we have to give. That's funds that can be used to upgrade ambulances, equipment, defibrillators," Hake said.

Naloxone is just another tool emergency services workers use to save lives.

"This is a tool that we have to potentially save a life. It's no different than any other tool we carry on the fire truck. That it has its purpose, and that's what we're here for," Deardorff said.

"This is the kind of business we'd all like to be out of. I think it's going to be years, and maybe even decades before we're completely on the other side of this epidemic," Dr. Howie said.

"We realize it's a disease. We realize this is not something that people want to do, that they make a choice, but it is frustrating dealing with it time and time again in addition to our already high call volume," Hake said.

One of the reasons the fire department gave out so many doses of Naloxone is that some overdose victims need more than one dose.

There are several factors that may cause some people to need more than one dose to save their life.

"What was mixed with it? Was it pure heroin? Was it a pure opioid? Was it mixed with some additional drug, cocaine? Was it carfentanil, which is mixed with the elephant tranquilizer," Deardorff said.

"Unfortunately, it's an illness that's out there. We feel for the people who have this illness, and we just would like to help in any way possible," Deardorff added