SPOKANE, Wash. - It's no secret that the Inland Northwest, as well as the country, has an opioid problem.
"We've seen people that have been in poverty and we've seen people that have been millionaires that have suffered the same ailment," said Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.
And while opioid overdose deaths have risen - so has the distribution of an antidote.
"So the drug narcan is really similar to epinephrine and the way we deliver it. It's an adult dose, it's single use, the medication itself is fairly innocuous to human beings, so if somebody is suffering from an opioid overdose, it will help them. If not, it won't have an affect," said Schaeffer.
The firefighters in the area I've spoken with all seem to endorse narcan - claiming it sobers up an unconscious victim in moments, and brings them back from death's doorstep like few other methods do. So for what reason wouldn't all first responders carry the drug?
"From my perspective there isn't one," said Lynn Everson of the Spokane Regional Health District.
Everson has been distributing generic narcan with her needle exchange for about 18 months, and has saved over 30 lives in the process.
"One woman has brought back four people. I told her 'you're practically a professional,'" said Everson.
The biggest hang up preventing law enforcement agencies from carrying the drug is resources - or a lack thereof. Each individual dose carried on firetrucks costs about $30 - and officers have to be trained before administering narcan. However, thanks to grants - by the end of July the antidote could be carried by every single police officer - and a handful of other local agencies have also expressed interest in the practice.
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