Springfield-area EMS teams triple order of Narcan after October overdose spike

Published: Nov. 6, 2019 at 6:20 AM CST
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The Greene County Coroner told KY3 News nearly a dozen people have died in a recent overdose spike in the Springfield area. Those same fatal drugs can also put first responders in danger while they try to save lives.

An EMS Regional Manager with Cox Health said they had to re-stock some of their protective equipment to keep crews safe. "We always keep a large supply of gloves," began Ryan Verch, as he talked about fentanyl-resistant gloves, a new addition to Cox ambulances over the past eight months. "We have had to order extra Narcan because on a daily basis here recently we're giving several doses of Narcan."

While the dollar amount of Narcan Cox Health has had to order is not finalized, officials say they've tripled their orders on a weekly basis since the recent overdose spike. Verch explained this is because they need enough Narcan to treat victims and also first responders, should they be exposed to dangerous substances and experience an overdose themselves. "We have had some close calls where we've had patients with what we presume is fentanyl on them, so it was a great exposure risk moving the patient and our crew not becoming exposed to it," Verch explained.

Verch talked about the extra precautions local EMS crews take when responding to an overdose call that could possibly involve fentanyl. "It can be absorbed through mucus membranes, so through the eyes, also inhalation," he said. "That's why we talk about wearing masks, wearing gowns, wearing eye protection, and also the fentanyl-resistant gloves."

Verch ended the interview reviewing signs someone may be experiencing an overdose without even knowing it. "You may not even have the time as a patient yourself to notice that you're starting to become groggy, lethargic," he said. "You may start with the dizziness and lightheadedness and maybe become unconscious."

The EMS Teams at Cox Health are working to prepare other first responders across the Ozarks with the MO-HOPE Project. The goal of the Missouri Opioid-Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education (MO-HOPE) Project is to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Missouri through expanded access to overdose education and naloxone, public awareness, assessment, and referral to treatment.

Verch said if overdose calls continue at the rate they spiked to in October, they will be looking to make long-term order changes when it comes to their protective gear.