Hauppauge, NY - September 12, 2013 - The Suffolk County Department of Health Services this week received state approval to register as an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program. The designation will allow health officials to teach laypersons how to recognize an opioid overdose and reverse its effects.
Beginning next month, Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services will begin training adults who are interested in becoming Trained Overdose Responders (TORs). Trainings will address risk factors for opioid overdose, signs of overdose, contacting emergency medical services and administering intranasal naloxone, an opioid antagonist known by the brand name Narcan. Participants will receive at no cost a kit containing medication and supplies. Those who complete the program successfully will receive two-year renewable certification.
“This is very welcome news,” said County Executive Bellone. “With this designation as an Opioid Prevention Program, we are able to expand our outreach beyond the EMS System and offer greater community access to this potentially life-saving antidote.”
Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that is given to patients with opioid overdose to reverse the effects of the opioid. Patients respond quickly to Narcan, and there are minimal side effects or contraindications to its use.
New York State, prior to June 2012, allowed only advanced life support providers to administer Narcan. Typically, advanced life support providers have administered naloxone approximately 500 times per year, in Suffolk County. In 2012, Suffolk County was chosen as one of only three counties to participate in a demonstration project to test whether basic life support providers--including police officers who are trained as basic EMTs--can recognize opioid overdose and save lives by safely administering Narcan. Basic EMTs are trained to use a needleless atomizer, administering medication through the nose. Since the program’s inception, basic EMTs have saved 174 additional lives using Narcan.
“There are thousands of mothers and fathers out there who know their sons or daughters are facing devastating addictions," said Suffolk County legislator Kara Hahn who has championed the use of Narcan in Suffolk County by authoring three laws to affect its usage. “Their greatest fear is that one day they will wake up to a child who has overdosed and not be able to help them. These trainings will empower those parents and/or friends or roommates of addicted individuals to be prepared to save their lives should that be necessary.”
“Reversing an opioid overdose through Narcan administration is time dependent,” said Health Commissioner James Tomarken. “This program will allow prompt on-site intervention by trained family members or friends of overdose victims, thereby eliminating the time interval between a 911 call and an ambulance arrival.”
Robert Delagi, Administrator of the Opioid Prevention Program, said, “We anticipate that those who are aware of opioid abuse among friends, families and social contacts will be eager to become trained overdose responders. We expect to the roll the program out in October, upon arrival of the kits from the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute.”
Delagi was recently appointed to a technical advisory group convened by the New York State Department of Health to develop policies to guide community-based resuscitation of individuals who are presumed to have overdosed from opioids.