Deaths from overdoses caused by heroin and other opioids has risen in Massachusetts, and has even impacted Watertown. The Watertown Fire Department is one of the first departments to have access to an antidote for overdoses.
Starting on Feb. 20, all Watertown fire vehicles began carrying Nalaxone, a drug that can be given as an antidote to a person suspected of suffering from an opioid overdose, said Watertown Fire Chief Mario Orangio. Opioids also include prescription painkiller medicines codeine and oxycontin.
The department has sought to get the program in the past, and officials secured it through its affiliation with Mount Auburn Hospital, Orangio said.
“The fire department’s Firefighter/EMTs have been trained to administer the drug nasally, formally a skill reserved for advanced level EMTs such as paramedics via injection,” Orangio said.
Over 100 Americans overdose on heroin each day, Orangio said. A recent Associated Press story run in the Boston Globe reported that 185 people in Massachusetts have died from overdoses over the past four months. That did not include Boston, Worcester and Springfield because those cities do not track those cases, according to the story.
Last year, Watertown emergency personnel responded to a string of five overdoses, two of which were fatal.
Orangio said the new tool will help some people in life-threatening situations.
“As first responders our fire apparatus normally arrive at the scene of an incident first which places us in a great position to counteract the deadly effects of narcotic overdoses. Whether it’s a patient with an accidental ingestion or a patient with an addiction, we know we can make a difference,” Orangio said. “For those that struggle with addiction, our hope is that these life saving drugs will allow these victims the ability to get the help they need managing their addiction.”