Coon Rapids firefighters save overdose victim with Narcan

Doses of naloxone hydrochloride
Doses of naloxone hydrochloride, also called Narcan, are displayed on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 in East Montpelier, Vt.
Toby Talbot / AP 2013

Updated 3:25 p.m. | Posted 1:03 p.m.

Coon Rapids firefighters were the first in the state to carry the anti-overdose drug Narcan to aid victims in an emergency. On Friday, the department said that helped save a life.

Fire crews responding to a Nov. 28 emergency call of a possible heroin overdose found a man unresponsive but with a pulse. Coon Rapids firefighters, who respond to all medical calls in the city, arrived and administered Narcan.

The 24-year-old man eventually became responsive and began to breathe again on his own and was taken to the hospital, the department said.

Nick House, the Coon Rapids firefighter who administered the life-saving dose, said he hopes more fire departments start carrying Narcan.

"It's important because as a first responder agency, we typically arrive before the ambulance does, whether it's a couple of minutes or more," he said. "And just by having another lifesaving tool on our truck that we can use greatly helps the outcome of our patients."

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• September: Coon Rapids fire department first to carry Narcan

Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, can restart the respiratory systems of people who overdose on opiates like heroin or prescription painkillers. Opiates include drugs such as heroin as well as prescription pain medications such as Vicodin, Norco, Percocet and Oxycontin.

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. Coon Rapids was the first fire department.

In an MPR News story in September, 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.

"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 in the fall.

MPR News reporter Jon Collins contributed to this report.