Firefighters in a Delaware county ravaged by opioid addiction will start carrying the overdose reversal drug Narcan in an effort to more effectively combat overdose deaths.
The Wilmington Fire Department had previously been barred from carrying Narcan, despite often being the first on scene when an overdose is occurring. Local laws prevented firefighters in the community who are trained in the use of the overdose reversal drug from administering it, forcing them to wait until EMS personnel arrived, reports Delaware Online.
The opioid epidemic continues to plague Delaware, which lost more than 300 people to drug overdoses in 2016. State data shows there have been more than 215 drug overdose deaths in Delaware so far this year.
“It was frustrating to know we have the skills and could make a difference,” Battalion Chief John Looney, spokesman for the Fire Department, told Delaware Online. “The epidemic is growing and is predicted to grow even more in the next couple of years. We wanted to be on the forefront. We want to be a well-rounded department.”
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.
The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released its first preliminary report in August, giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. Drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, with 64,070 Americans suffering a fatal overdose that year, the CDC estimates.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50.
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