Grand Valley Fire Protection District now offers emergency overdose nasal spray Narcan to public
Lips and fingernails may appear pale, blue or gray. Breathing slows down. It may even stop. The person may also look like they’re sleeping.
These are the symptoms of a person overdosing on opioids, an occurrence that has killed 51 people in Garfield County alone since 2012, Colorado Department of Health and Environment numbers show.
The Grand Valley Fire Protection District, which covers Parachute and Battlement Mesa, has responded by now offering free naloxone kits, a nasal spray that instantly counteracts the fatal effects specific to opioid overdoses. The drug’s brand name is called Narcan.
Partnering with the state, Grand Valley Deputy Fire Chief Chris Jackson said the district is taking advantage of Colorado’s Third Party naloxone law, which offers immunity to anyone who acts in good faith to administer naloxone to another person suffering from an opioid overdose.
“Now, we are able to give the boxes of Narcan to those that think that they may be at risk or have people around them that might be at risk,” he said. “We carry this already on the trucks. We’re trained to give it, but this is from the state, and we can hand this out to a community member that comes here.
“The only thing we do is we provide them a little brief training, just so that they know when to use it, how to use it.”
Jackson said the local fire district has seen about a 30-40% increase in drug overdose-related calls over the past five years. The district, which has 4-10 people — all either certified as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic — working per shift, last year was just shy of receiving 1,200 emergency calls (this includes calls unrelated to drug overdoses).
Typically, the district receives information from dispatch telling them it’s a possible overdose. When they get to the scene, they’ll find a person unresponsive, not breathing and sometimes in cardiac arrest, Jackson said.
“Occasionally, if it’s heroin related, we’ll see the needles still stuck in them because it happens so quickly,” Jackson said.
Parachute Police Chief Sam Stewart said the local department carries two Narcan units in each of its vehicles. And while deploying Narcan isn’t as common as one may think, Stewart agrees having it readily available is a great resource for the Parachute and Battlement Mesa communities.
“I wouldn’t say (overdoses) are very prevalent,” he said. “I wouldn’t think it’s more than once a month, at most.”
But, he added, “I remember 10 years ago, as a sergeant in Rifle, we never thought it would get to this level.”
Jackson spoke to the genesis of drug abuse and drugs of choice in the United States. In the 1980s, it was both cocaine and crack cocaine, also with waves of heroin use. Methamphetamine and use of opioids started to see a major uptick midway through the 2010s, data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse shows, and has only continued to rise since.
But what’s especially alarming for Jackson is the growing popularity of not just fentanyl, but what’s also called carfentanil, a synthetic opioid approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
“It’s designed to be a tranquilizer for large animals, like elephants and rhinos,” Jackson said of carfentanil.
The past 12 months have seen a couple major documented examples of fentanyl busts in western Garfield County. In December, a high-speed pursuit between Rifle and Parachute led to the seizure of a large quantity of suspected fentanyl pills. In November, a Parachute woman was arrested by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly possessing 30 fentanyl pills.
Boxes of Narcan can be picked up at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District’s main station, at 124 Stone Quarry Road in Battlement Mesa.
Jackson said people who come to collect Narcan will be given an initial tutorial on how to use it. They will then be given up to two boxes, with each box containing two doses of Narcan.
“When somebody has an overdose and a community member can get (Narcan) into their system faster than we can get there,” he said, “it could save your life.”
Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com
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