The Tacoma Fire Department is distributing free opioid rescue kits that include the overdose-reversal medication Narcan.
Narcan — the brand name for the drug naloxone — is a fast-acting overdose-reversal nasal spray that is administered to someone who is overdosing on opioids.
Under this pilot program, paramedics who treat an opioid patient for an overdose would offer that person a free kit containing Narcan to be used later.
Fire Chief Jim Duggan said that in the long term, the department wants to treat underlying addictions rather than simply treating opioid overdoses. But in the short term, the distribution of Narcan can save lives.
“After reversing a life-threatening overdose, TFD paramedics are well-positioned to provide referral information at a time when an individual might be most receptive to encouragement to enter a recovery program,” Duggan said in a statement.
When administered properly and in a timely manner, Narcan has overwhelming success rates.
A review of emergency medical services data from Massachusetts last year found that when given Narcan, 93.5 percent of people survived their overdose.
But the review also determined that once a patient was saved from an overdose, they had about a 1 in 10 chance of not surviving another year. About 35 percent of those who were dead a year later died of an opioid overdose.
“We recognize that the distribution or later use of the free kits is not the end solution, but it serves as a mechanism to begin the conversation of access to care, treatment, and recovery,” said TFD paramedic Kurt Gordon, who is coordinating the pilot program.
There has been a 50 percent increase in the administration of Narcan by paramedics since 2013, according to Tacoma Fire.
Today, laws in every state allow Narcan to be administered by anyone, including a physician, first responder or even a family member.