PITTSFIELD — City Fire Department first responders will soon be carrying naloxone to administer to drug overdose victims.
Pittsfield recently received a $14,130 grant from the state Department of Public Health under a program helping to supply emergency responders with the medication.
The grants to communities can be used to cover the cost of purchasing the medication, which can be administered nasally, and atomizers; purchasing related supplies such as pouches or containers to carry the medication; staff training in its use; stipends for first responders if necessary; community education efforts related to awareness of the 911 Good Samaritan law, and other costs approved by the DPH's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services.
"The intent of this grant is to place a number of doses of naloxone (Narcan) on each in-service piece of apparatus in the City," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
He said department vehicles will likely be equipped with the medication by mid-August.
The five engine companies and the ladder truck are manned with Emergency Medical Technicians or First Responders, who will be trained in the administration of the opioid counteracting drug, Czerwinski said.
"The geographic deployment of the companies throughout the city allow for quick response and effective patient care," he said. "This is a continuance of our core service provided by firefighters within the Fire Department's mission of life safety."
Along with the purchase of the drug are requirements to maintain it in a secure manner on each truck, Czerwinski said. Security devices will be purchased to hold the product on each vehicle.
He said the grant requires monthly reporting to the DPH on all opioid-related overdoses. All department personnel also will be trained in the administration of naloxone, and all officers will be trained on the reporting requirements.
In addition to the medication that firefighters will soon carry, private ambulance crews in the state are required to carry naloxone.
Naloxone, better known by the brand name Narcan, is administered through a nasal spray or by injection and quickly counters the effects for someone after they've used heroin or opioid pain medications.
According to state DPH estimates, unintentional fatal opioid overdoses reached close to 1,300 in 2014, including at least 24 in Berkshire County and 13 in Pittsfield.
Those overdose figures have risen dramatically since the period from 2000 to 2011, when the state total did not top 615 in any one year, and Berkshire County experienced an average of well under nine deaths per year.
And there are many more unintentional opioid overdoses that do not prove fatal but probably require an emergency response. DPH figures for fiscal year 2009 show there were 712 nonfatal, unintentional overdoses in Pittsfield.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.