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Patient Care

W.V. Departments Footing the Bill for Naloxone

March 19--SHORT GAP, W.Va. -- Mineral County fire departments that administer naloxone to opioid overdose patients aren't receiving state or federal funding to keep their ambulances stocked with naloxone.

Lauren Trenter, medical chief at the Short Gap Volunteer Fire Department, said her department has spent more than $3,000 since Jan. 1, 2016, on the opioid overdose antidote as calls continue to rise.

"We need it far quicker then we can get money for it -- it takes too long to get grant money," said Trenter. "We just keep doing a good job and doing it the best we can no matter what."

The department also isn't often reimbursed through insurance for naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

"99.9 percent of the time we don't see any money," said Trenter.

The fire department relies solely on donations, fundraisers and the Mineral County's excess fire and ambulance levy, Trenter said. Sometimes the money spent on naloxone can be reimbursed by Medicaid, Medicare or directly from the patient.

Although the Mineral County companies aren't receiving grant funding, some fire and police departments throughout the state are.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources recently launched a statewide naloxone distribution project and has distributed 8,000 kits consisting of two doses of naloxone each to fight opioid overdose deaths in the state. The distribution will be done in two phases, with the first phase already completed.

DHHR has contracted with the West Virginia University Injury Control Research Center to implement and evaluate the program through a census of existing naloxone programs.

The Mineral County Health Department was contacted about participating in the second phase of the project, said Sheena Sayres, a public health outreach specialist with Injury Control Research Center.

"We are in the beginning stages of phase 2 at this time and we have contacted the Mineral County Health Department to determine if they are interested in implementing a naloxone program," said Sayres. "No other programs in Mineral County have be in contact with us at this time."

The naloxone distribution project is mainly funded through a $1.07 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, according to the DHHR website.

In addition to the Short Gap department, both Wiley Ford Volunteer Fire Department and Keyser EMS are seeing a high amount of overdose calls, said Trenter, who surmises that the proximity to Cumberland is leading to the increase in overdoses.

In Mineral and Allegany counties, addicts spend $7.2 million a year on heroin, James Pyles, director of safety and security at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has previously said.

The Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company recently held a heroin forum with Pyles as the guest speaker and plans to host another in May with a date yet to be determined. About 120 people attended the first forum.

"It helps to get information out there on heroin to help lessen or stop the addiction before it starts," said Trenter. "People spoke about losing a loved one to a heroin overdose. It puts a face to the addiction."

A call to A.J. Root, administrator of the Mineral County Health Department wasn't returned by press time.

(c)2017 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

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