Opiate antidote proves useful as abuse increases

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COLUMBIA - Almost one year in, the Boone County Fire Protection District said it is seeing positive results from carrying opiate overdose antidotes on its trucks.

The fire department has been carrying the opiate-related overdose reversal drug, best known as Narcan, on all of its trucks since November 2015.

According to BCFPD Assistant Chief Gale Blomenkamp, the department has administered the drug on three occasions since. Two of those events have taken place in the last two months.

"One of them was a gentlemen that was in a vehicle actually at a gas station, and was overdosing on an opiate- based drug, and so we were able to give the drug and, in fact, he was alert, conscious, oriented, talking to us," Blomenkamp said.

He said the department has no regrets about the decision to carry the drug.

"We felt, as a service to our customers, that we had to start carrying this drug, because you look at 10, 15, 20 minute response times for some ambulances in our district," he said.

The Columbia Police Department said it is not carrying the drug. The Boone County Sheriff's Department did not respond to a request for information from KOMU 8 News.

In January of 2016, the CDC released a report saying, since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent , including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers and heroin.

According to Heather Harlan, a prevention and treatment specialist at Phoenix Health Programs, the spike is becoming more visible in mid-Missouri.

"What has been termed an epidemic is happening with opiate addiction in our community and the country," Harlan said.

Since the beginning of 2016, she said, she has seen a large influx of clients coming to Phoenix Health Programs with opiate addiction struggles.

"Across the board, young, old, rich, poor, very successful professional people that are prominent in the community, and people who are homeless" she said.

Given the the increase, Harlan said she would like to see the community take a more active stance, as the fire department has, when it comes to battling the addiction issue.

"It is a matter of concern, I think, to those who are in health care professions that people probably wouldn't hesitate to carry insulin if someone had a diabetic reaction, to know what to do to save a life, but we might be hesitant to do that for opiate, for someone who had an opiate overdose," Harlan said.

The antidote, which is administered through the nose, costs around $50 per dose, which means the fire department spends anywhere between $4,000 to $5,000 dollars every two years to stock the drug.

Despite the price, Blomenkamp said it's worth it.

"You save one life, it's worth it," he said.