Heroin epidemic: $25,000 donation to help county buy overdose antidote naloxone

A private Lake Worth drug treatment center today donated $25,000 to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue to buy Narcan, a brand name for the expensive overdose antidote naloxone.

The donation by The Treatment Center of the Palm Beaches will “have true impact” on efforts by fire rescue crews to deal with the local heroin epidemic, Fire Chief Jeff Collins said at a news conference.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue officials with executives of The Treatment Center of the Palm Beaches, a Lake Worth facility that donated $25,000 today to Fire Rescue to help pay for naloxone.

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue officials with executives of The Treatment Center of the Palm Beaches, a Lake Worth facility that donated $25,000 on Tuesday Dec. 13, 2016, to Fire Rescue to help pay for naloxone.

The $25,000 will affect about 700 patients, or the rough equivalent of three to four months of emergency overdose calls, said Rich Ellis, fire rescue’s EMS chief.

So far this year, county fire rescue crews have responded to 2,383 calls where naloxone was used. By the end of December, Ellis said, the number for this year could nearly double the roughly 1,300 calls for 2015 in which the drug was given to patients.

Fire Rescue spent about $60,000 last year on naloxone. In the first nine months of 2016, the department has spent $183,000 on the drug. These amounts do not include tax-dollars spent on the drug in cities with their own police and fire-rescue departments, such as Delray Beach.

This year, Fire Rescue’s budget for the drug is $289,000. “That doesn’t mean we have given that much, because we have stocked the trucks,’’ Ellis said.

Next year, crews will start using a nasal spray version of the drug.

“That will be more efficient,’’ Collins said. “Currently when we administer Narcan, it comes by the box and when you break it open for one patient. They may need half the actual dosage and you have to throw the other half out.”

Collins said the donation from The Treatment Center will help address some of the problems detailed in a grand jury report released Monday by the State Attorney’s Office.

“This donation of $25,000 absolutely helps solve some of the issues that were identified in the community,” he said.

“This societal problem knows no boundaries in Palm Beach County. It goes from north to south, from coast to coast. We run calls all day long on heroin overdoses.”

Fire Rescue officials are working with County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay in her efforts to improve the community response to the epidemic, which includes lobbying state lawmakers for more money.

Although Fire Rescue is not actively seeking donations, they hope The Treatment Center’s gesture will spur other private companies in the addiction-treatment industry to donate money for naloxone.

“The donation by The Treatment Center is the tip of the spear,’’ said Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park, who has organized a countywide Heroin Task Force.

“They stepped up to the plate on a community effort. With depletion of Narcan as a quickly as we are going through it, any time we get money like this, it’s a tremendous support.”

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