Program leaving behind naloxone could be lifesaver in opioid overdoses

Benita Zahn
Updated: December 06, 2019 07:24 PM
Created: December 06, 2019 07:23 PM

Battling opioid addiction is a multi-pronged effort.  In the Capital Region, a new effort aims to save the lives of people who've overdosed. The program has EMS, law enforcement, and other first responders leaving behind a kit with naloxone after administering the drug that reverses an overdose. Columbia County is the first to put it in action.

Responding to calls for an overdose is a daily event for emergency responders. While the drug naloxone can save many of these lives by reversing the opioid overdose, what if help can't get there soon enough?

Dr. Michael Dailey, director of the Regional Emergency Medical Organization, did some brainstorming with first responders - particularly those in Columbia County. The game plan is to leave a naloxone kit behind after treating an overdose. It's a successful path gaining traction in other parts of the country.

"Everybody said bring it. When I talked to people at the medical center, everybody was in in terms of supporting it and the Regional Emergency Medical Organization is right there behind it, supporting it as well," said Daley.

The Leave One Behind program officially started on Thanksgiving in Columbia County, where all the first responders are under one umbrella.

"We have an ambulance system in Columbia County. It’s called Columbia County EMS System, whereby we’re arriving on scene within nine minutes - most of Columbia County" said PJ Keeler, Columbia County EMS coordinator. "If we can leave these leave behind kits, hopefully they will get treated much sooner before we even get there and obviously every minute is a life saved."

The program will roll out in other Capital Region counties over the next few weeks.

How much money it could save is hard to measure for a few simple reasons.

"It’s hard to do the total dollars and cents because the amount of money that’s saved by somebody having their overdose reversed sooner and not suffering the consequences being hypoxic or not having enough oxygen for longer periods of time is really difficult to measure," said Daley.

The New York State Department of Health is supplying the naloxone kits.

As for education on how to use the kits, there’s not much too it. You peel pit, place it, and press it.

Once a kit that's been left behind has been used, another one can be requested.

One more thing - despite the effectiveness of naloxone, it's still critical 911 is called in the event of an overdose, because one dose of naloxone may not be enough.

"You reverse the overdose, but there is a potential that your naloxone is now going to wear off and the opioid that you took is still going to be in your system and you could, again, go unresponsive," said Anand Balasar with Valatie EMS.

Dr. Dailey says in the end, the program gives people who have overdosed a second chance at life.

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