By Alyssa Schnugg
To respond to the emerging opioid epidemic, more than 30 firefighters with the Lafayette County Fire Department have been training for the past two weeks to be able to administer Narcan to people who overdosed on drugs.
All 15 fire engines and three emergency response trucks will have Narcan on board.
“This will amplify Lafayette County Fire Department’s treatment options in response to possible drug overdoses,” said Wes Anderson, Lafayette County Fire Coordinator.
Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is administered to individuals suffering from an opioid overdose to reverse the symptoms. Narcan blocks the opioid from the opiate receptors in the brain and reverses the effects of an overdose.
Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone.
In 2017, lawmakers passed a bill that allowed anyone in the state to purchase Narcan without a prescription. Also that year, every police officer in Mississippi was issued training on how to use Narcan and each department received the medication to administer.
The effort was funded by the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant, as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said officers have since used the treatment about 10 times.
“It works extremely well and it has proven to give first responders the ability to extend life-saving measures until medical services can arrive,” McCutchen said.
Officers are instructed to administer the Narcan in any suspected drug overdose as the success chances are increased the faster it can get into the patient’s system.
The DEA, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi, the Oxford Police Department and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department issued a joint warning in September about a recent rise in drug overdoses.
McCutchen said OPD has investigated 11 narcotic overdoses so far this year that resulted in the deaths of three people locally. The overdoses were a result of counterfeit opioid pain pills and anxiety medication being mixed with fentanyl.
Investigations have shown that people are accessing drugs through the “darknet” and receiving them in the mail.
Oxford Fire Chief Joey Gardner said his department was scheduled for training with Narcan earlier this year; however, the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the class.
“We will have class in November,” Gardner said, “and will be able to use it after that class.”