Humboldt Bay firefighters gathered at the department’s training classroom in Eureka this afternoon for a two-hour training session on how to administer medication to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Currently, only the department’s eight trained paramedics can administer naloxone by injection. But changes to state law have expanded the number of personnel who can deliver the medication to a patient in the form of Narcan nasal spray, which can now be given by all firefighters who are at a minimum trained as emergency medical technicians or EMTs.
“This is very important because we have so much (opiate use) in the community and we need it as available as it can be among first responders,” said Humboldt Bay Fire Battalion Chief Tim Citro, who conducted today’s training session. “We do come across a lot of opiate, heroin, fentanyl use in our community and it’s very prevalent across the country.”
Today’s training revolved around the basics of identifying an overdose patient and then properly administering the dose.
“Matt (Dennis, a paramedic) will explain what the drug is and how it’s administered and we will have the firefighters practice on the mannequins,” Citro said. “EMTs don’t administer drugs like paramedics do so they will have to learn a little bit of pharmacology and to recognize the signs and symptoms of when to use it on a patient.”
The use of Narcan can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose over the course of 10 to 15 minutes but it will wear off and the effects of an overdose can recur, according to Citro.
“One dose should be enough, but it depends on the amount of opioids in your system,” Citro said. “The opiates will still be in your system and that’s why when we give it someone in the field they may wake up and feel fine but they still need to go the hospital to be evaluated.”
Citro said it will probably be another week or so before every apparatus is equipped with the medication and it’s definitely needed.
“On average we use it maybe 10 to 15 times a month, and when we get on scene we’re looking for any signs of intravenous drug use, pill bottles or a sign there has been some sort of opiate use,” Citro said. “The more people we have trained to give the drug the better, this is definitely a positive.”
The Eureka Police Department will also soon have naloxone stocked on its patrol vehicles.
“We have training scheduled for the first part of the new year and that will include all our patrol personnel,” said EPD Capt. Brian Stephens. “It’s important for our officers’ safety as well because a lot of the opiates can be cut with fentanyl and the chances of us running into that scenario increase every day. This will help and it’s an important step for public safety.”
It’s not just first responders who can get trained on how to administer naloxone, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services also offers training for the public on how to administer the drug.
“Public health will train any community member to administer naloxone and we provide it to them for free,” said Dana Murguia, senior program manager for Public Health. “It’s becoming a common practice for doctors and emergency rooms to administer naloxone along with an opioid prescription. This is absolutely a life-saving medication and it’s not uncommon for us to get say, 50 to 70 reports of overdose reversals a month. Those numbers are anecdotal but they are significant.”
Murguia said residents interested in getting the training to administer naloxone can call Public Health at 707-268-2132 or check the website run by a local coalition formed to address opioid use at RX Safe Humboldt.