The Tacoma Fire Department is pioneering community distribution of free rescue kits that contain the life-saving opioid overdose medication, Narcan, packaged as an easy-to-administer, fast-acting nasal spray. The free kits also include information about recovery programs available in the community.
“We want to move beyond simply treating opioid overdoses to treating the underlying addiction,” said Tacoma Fire Chief Jim Duggan. “After reversing a life-threatening overdose, TFD paramedics are well-positioned to provide referral information at a time when an individual might be most receptive to encouragement to enter a recovery program.”
After providing emergency treatment to an opioid patient, paramedics would offer the patient or their companion a free kit.
“We recognize that the distribution or later use of the free kits is not the end solution, but it serves as a mechanism to begin the conversation of access to care, treatment and recovery,” said TFD Firefighter and Paramedic Kurt Gordon, who is coordinating the pilot program.
According to the Washington State Department of Health, statewide, approximately two individuals die each day from opioid overdose. Locally, TFD has seen a 50-percent increase since 2013 in the administration of Narcan by paramedics for opioid-related emergency incidents.
This pilot project has been made possible through the Tacoma Fire Department’s partnership with the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the Point Defiance Aids Project. Funding comes from a statewide, five-year grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.