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Call for first responders to be armed with Narcan for Heroin OD

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

With the alarming and rapid rise of heroin overdose deaths in Erie County, a north Buffalo man urges first responders are armed with a drug that reverses an overdose of Heroin or Opiate.  WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says the drug, called Naloxone or Narcan, has been proven to prevent deaths.

"Last year there was over 16,000 people who died from pain killers and over 3,800 people who died from Heroin overdoes.  This is over 20,000 people that die every year just from overdoes," said Avi Israel.

Israel is very passionate about preventing anyone from dying from a drug overdose.  In 2011 Israel he lost his 20-year-old Michael who took his own live while addicted to painkillers.

Israel speaks publicly to help stem the drug abuse epidemic. In recent weeks he's been speaking out about a rash of heroin or Fentanly overdoses. 

But Israel said if first responders are allowed to use a $10 shot of Narcan, a life could be saved.

"We have more opiate pills in Western New York than any other part of the state.  I would like to see every municipality from the shores of Lake Erie to the beaches of the Atlantic, get together and decide that you know what we are going to carry Naloxone, because we are going to put a stop to killing our future," said Isreal. "A lot of these people that are overdosing and dying are the future of this state and we just let them die."

Late last week the Erie County Health Department issued an advisory to First responders and emergency departments to administer Narcan if they encounter a heroin overdose.

Credit WBFO News file photo
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein tells WBFO News the health department is looking into Narcan that in inter-nasal or an injection.

"And this is really a nonjudgemental intervention. We know that using Heroin is an undesirable behavior.  It's illegal, it's risky. There are other health risks associated," said Burstein. "This is not going to solve that problem. What this will solve is helping people from dying who may overdoes."

Burstein said she believes some emergency medical technician (ETM'S) have access to the drug. 20-people died in the last three months of 2013 in Erie County from a Heroin or Fentanyl overdose.

Burstein stressed that drug users buying something on the street don't know what they are getting.

"It could be Heroin laced with Fentanly. It could be Heroin laced with something else," said Burstein. "People have no idea what they are getting."

Israel said he meet with last year with the City of Buffalo to encourage use of the drug by city first responders. 

Credit WBFO News file photo
Buffalo Police car.

Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge says city police officers are not using the drug at this time. But DeGeorge tells WBFO News the city is "working on a plan" and expects to make an announcement on it in a "short period of time". However, DeGeorge said any plan would need a legal review, testing and training of officers.  DeGeorge called it a "multi-step process" that "can't be rolled out in one day."

Israel said in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts has been using the drug the past few years saved about  1,100 lives. Israel said he believes Narcan should be placed in the hands of all first responders.