N.C. EMS Administered Narcan 374 Times in 2017
The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
Jan. 21—EMS providers across Onslow County administered overdose-reversing drug Narcan 374 times in 2017 at a cost of nearly $19,000, according to area officials.
Onslow County EMS provided Narcan to patients 355 times while The City of Jacksonville dispensed a similiar reversal drug 18 times in the same time period, according to information from the county and city.
A survey conducted by The Daily News that included Onslow County law enforcement and first responders found little utilization of Narcan in the Swansboro, Holly Ridge, North Topsail Beach and Richlands areas, but many incidents in the unincorporated areas of the county.
According to Onslow County Emergency Medical Services Division Head David Grovdahl, all EMS personnel are "trained on the use of Narcan as part of their orientation to the system as well as in continuing education."
Grovdahl says the chemical formulation of Narcan is the same from the hospital to EMS to first responders to people.
"The difference is in the packaging," Grovdahl says. "Lay people and some first responders such as law enforcement have auto-injectors that give a fixed dose. EMS and hospitals have a vial that allows the healthcare provider to determine the dose based on weight. Narcan can be given intra-nasal as a mist, intramuscular or intravenous."
Narcan has been in existence for more than 20 years but has taken on more prominence in the past few years as the opioid crisis has escalated. With the spiraling number of drug users and abusers, Grovdahl and his team of paramedics and EMTs have found themselves responding to more calls where the need for Narcan is required.
"EMS responded to 20,438 calls for service in 2017. The opioid crisis has caused our paramedics to consider opioid overdose as a more likely cause of injury than in past years," Grovdahl said. "It has caused an increase in call volume for several different types of calls such as falls, traffic accident, cardiac arrest, breathing difficulty and altered mental status."
Jacksonville Public Safety Director Mike Yaniero said the police department "deployed naloxone" seven times to seven people while his fire and emergency services dispensed Narcan 11 times on seven people.
"We are taking these measures that make it possible to save lives," Yaniero said.
Drugs in the Sneads Ferry community and the number of overdose deaths in recent years became the impetus for H.O.P.E., a nonprofit awareness and educational group known by its inspiring acronym which stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention Education.
HOPE was founded by concerned citizens and parents whose children died of drug overdoses.
Cindy Patane and Vanessa Sapp each lost their 21-year-old sons—Matthew Eyster and Jason Sapp—both of whom died to drug overdoses hours apart in April 2016.
Patane is a proponent of Narcan who administered the blocking drug to her son in a futile effort. While Patane recognizes the value and importance of Narcan, she feels more needs to be done after the patient is brought back.
"There needs to be a follow up system for after Narcan has been administered to an individual such as a QRT—quick response team—like the city of Wilmington is implementing. They send a social worker, police officer, and EMT to individual's houses within 72 hours of receiving Narcan to try and help that individual get into a recovery program. They try to assist with Medicaid or any other issue that individual may have. Just forgetting about them until the next Narcan call is not going to help the opioid issue or make Narcan an effective treatment," Patane said.
The healthcare industry has expanded outreach to those in need of follow-up care, a void to which Patane referred. RHA Health Services and Integrated Family Services in Jacksonville provide mobile crisis units and community-based support teams to help in the recovery process.
Groups such as HOPE and others are trying to assist government agencies in informing the general public of uses and availability of Narcan.
"Last year Sneads Ferry's HOPE along with N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition offer(ed) training to families and loved ones in the Sneads Ferry area on how to administer Narcan and provided kits to those that needed them offering those families some hope for helping their loved ones," Patane said.
Grovdahl said his county department doesn't have a line-item budget amount allocated to Narcan but rather a $70,000 budget for the "purchase of a wide range of medication used in all the different medical emergencies we see every year."
However, Grovdahl said the over-the-counter price for Narcan is approximately $50 per dose.
Sapp said one of the most powerful statements she has heard was from a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who said "It is never a burden to save a life" in regards to concerns of repeated use of Narcan.
Patane agrees, explaining the scourge opioid abuse afflicts to the user and those around him or her.
"Addiction doesn't just affect the addict. It affects their families as well. Any hope we can give them is invaluable," Patane said.