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State EMS advisory committee approves wider use of OD reversal drug

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The state Emergency Medical Services advisory committee has given the green light to a proposal to allow basic life support emergency medical services agencies and certified first responders to carry a new version of the overdose reversal drug naloxone hydrochloride, marketed under the name Narcan.

This measure, if approved by the director of the state’s EMS bureau and the commissioner of the Department of Health, will allow Jefferson County’s five BLS ambulance agencies and 21 certified first-responder agencies to carry an intranasal form of Narcan that is sprayed into the nostrils instead of injected into the body.

Narcan reverses the respiratory depression that can result in death caused by an overdose of opioid-based drugs such as prescription painkillers and heroin.

In the past two years, overdose deaths have risen dramatically in Jefferson County, with 18 in 2011 and 16 in 2012.

The deaths have been split evenly among the city of Watertown and other areas of the county, according to data provided to county legislators by Jefferson County Public Health Director Ginger B. Hall and Public Health Planner Stephen A. Jennings.

Ambulance companies in Alexandria Bay, Natural Bridge, Redwood, Wellesley Island and Sackets Harbor would be able to carry and administer Narcan, as would 21 of the county’s 44 fire departments, according to Charles F. Brenon III, director of Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services.

The Wellesley Island and Sackets Harbor companies recently downgraded to BLS agencies, Mr. Brenon said.

They were previously two of the county’s 13 advanced life support EMS agencies.

Mrs. Hall said the commissioner of the state Department of Health, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, likely would look favorably upon the measure, based on past support he has given to the initiative.

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