MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- WCCO has found a new emergency is keeping Minneapolis firefighters busy and it has nothing to do with burning buildings. All fire rigs in the city carry Naloxone, also known as Narcan, to treat opioid overdoses.
So far this year the department has administered 124 doses, nearly one per day.
It's a crisis first responders say is showing no signs of slowing down.
In this line of work it often takes large equipment to save lives.
A small pouch now holds Minneapolis firefighters' latest tool.
"So this is the Narcan bag," one firefighter, Deandre Harris said.
Deandre Harris has only been on the fire department for six months. He's already saved four people using Naloxone.
"You administer this and it's almost like magic. They just come right back," Harris said.
The nasal spray works to treat any opioid overdose from heroin to prescription pills. It blocks the receptors in the brain to kick start a person's respiratory system.
Due to the proximity of Minneapolis' 19 stations, firefighters are often first on scene when someone calls 911.
Bryan Tyner is Assistant Chief of Administration.
"That puts us in a good position to be able to administer these interventions early on in the emergency to get the best outcome," Tyner said.
Fire rigs first started carrying the medicine in May of last year. Crews administered 200 doses in those eight remaining months and with 124 so far this year it could easily surpass that. The medicine doesn't always work. Sometimes it can be too late.
"The vast majority of the time it has been successful so we have saved a lot of lives," Tyner said.
Facing a new emergency seemingly more difficult to control than any fire.
"The epidemic is frightening," Harris said.
St. Paul firefighters also carry Naloxone. They've administered 224 doses this year. But, that number also includes paramedics.
Agencies are not mandated to carry the medicine. It is paid for by state funds if they choose to.
Recently the price has skyrocketed in the last few months. It can cost a few thousand dollars per dose in some cases.
For information on how first responders can get Naloxone:
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