The Coon Rapids Fire Department will be the first in the state to take advantage of a law allowing first responders to carry a drug that can reverse opiate overdoses, according to advocates who pushed for the law at the Legislature.
Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, can restart the respiratory systems of people who overdose on opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers.
Coon Rapids firefighter Nick House said the department decided to start carrying the anti-overdose drug after being approached by the Coon Rapids Police Department. Ambulance crews in the city also carry the drug, but firefighters are sometimes first on the scene of an overdose.
House said arming firefighters with the drug will allow them to more quickly treat overdose victims they encounter.
"If somebody is in respiratory distress or respiratory arrest, really every second counts in order to have a positive outcome and get that precious air supply [and] blood supply to the brain and keep that brain functioning," House said.
Public health officials have warned that opiate use has increased across the state and country in recent years. In Anoka County, nine people have died of opiate overdoses between January and mid-July. Last year, 27 Anoka County residents died due to opiate overdoses.
All seven vehicles used by the department to respond to medical emergencies will be stocked with Narcan. The 31 full-time firefighters in the Coon Rapids department have all been trained to administer Narcan nasally by staff at Allina Health Emergency Services. House said the cost for each dose is about $20.
Advocates from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation helped push through a law this year at the Legislature that allows first responders to carry and administer the opiate antidote.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Department was the first agency in the state to outfit officers with Narcan in August.
Foundation Vice President Lexi Reed Holtum said other agencies around the state are exploring whether to start carrying Narcan, but have yet to make final decisions.