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County hit hard in opioid crisis

By Marissa E. Lane, Staff Writer

The state of Indiana is putting thousands of dollars towards fighting the opioid epidemic.

Recently, the Indiana State Department of Health granted 34 counties, including Union County, with Narcan kits for emergency responders.

Spirit Medical Transport CEO and President Brian Hathaway announced at the Union County Commissioners’ meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, that Spirit was awarded a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health in January for 24 doses of Narcan. The doses are to go in the first-out bags of the Liberty-based ambulances to have on-hand to respond to overdoses.

Since the start of the year, Spirit has seen a drastic increase in the number of overdoses in the Union County area. Previously, the average number of overdoses per month to be treated and transported by Spirit was between one and three. During the last 10 days of January alone, Spirit had to administer Narcan to individuals seven times.

Commissioner President Paul Wiwi asked how many doses of Narcan it can take to stop an overdose. Hathaway responded that one overdose can require several doses of Narcan to treat the patient until they reach a hospital, especially traveling the distance to Reid Health or McCullough-Hyde. There are typically four doses of Narcan in the Spirit ambulances at any given time.

“It can be risky to administer, but it's a life-saving drug,” said Hathaway.

Public Health Preparedness Coordinator and co-founder of the Union County Opiate Treatment Center followed Hathaway's report with a project of his own. Recently, Day has been visiting local businesses to ask if they would like to be trained to administer Narcan and receive a dose to keep on hand. Narcan is most effective the sooner it is used, so having businesses prepared in the case of an overdose could potentially save lives. Day also hopes to train someone in the courthouse, in case of an emergency.

Narcan, or any generic version of the overdose-reversal drug called naloxone, can be purchased over the counter for approximately $40 per dose in the state of Indiana, especially from pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS who have committed their stores to having it on hand. The drug can reverse respiratory failure, the leading cause of overdose casualties. Naloxone works for street drugs such as heroin and prescription opiates such as OxyContin, Percocet, Methadone and Vicodin. While Narcan be used for most overdoses, it will not work if the drugs were laced with fentanyl.

In the case of an overdose or potential overdose, call an ambulance immediately after administering naloxone, if on hand. Give rescue breaths and perform CPR until the person is able to breathe on their own. If there is no response to the first dose of naloxone, administer a second, keeping track of the dosage time. Stay with the person until help has arrived and tell the emergency responders if the person has received any naloxone and the times it was administered.

If you or a loved one struggle with an opiate addiction, help is available. The national opiate hotline is 1-888-784-6641.