Life After Death

The fleeting space of time that immediately follows an opiate overdose is critical. For without a quick emergency response or the means to receive effective treatment, death can be a painful and an all-too-recurring outcome.

In this sense, it’s not surprising that naloxone, a prescription medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, is considered by many health care professionals as a viable “last resort” to stave off death by overdose.

Naloxone – often referred to as Narcan – has been used by emergency medical professionals for decades and usually comes in small, easy-to-carry kits. During an overdose, the medication is injected into the upper arm of the victim, reviving him or her (theoretically) in a matter of minutes.

Indeed, with heroin skyrocketing to epidemic proportions in Chautauqua County, local officials are pushing harder than ever to dispense naloxone – an effort reflected by the recent county drug forum that devoted a full hour to the medication and how to administer it.

According to Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff, patrols are also looking into naloxone kits.

“We are in the process … and are going through the proper channels to get the training and the kits themselves,” Gerace said. “My intent is to equip all our patrol cars as soon as possible.”

The Jamestown and Ellicott police departments, while acknowledging that naloxone kits will mostly be with the emergency and medical responders in the city, indicated that the kits would be a great asset to have in rural communities where police are often first responders.

“I think it’s wonderful (that police are carrying Narcan kits),” said Rick Huber, executive director of Jamestown’s Mental Health Association. “If (an overdose occurs) in an outlying area and Alstar isn’t covering it and volunteer fire departments aren’t carrying (naloxone) … the police (will be able to help).”

Huber has long advocated for Narcan kits being in the hands of first responders. For critics who claim that the medication is a mere safety net for addicts and gives them an added incentive to take riskier doses, Huber stated simply that “we can’t help someone into recovery if they’re dead, plain and simple.”