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Pittsburgh park rangers to carry Narcan as state promises $5M to responders

Aaron Aupperlee
| Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, 4:51 p.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf talks to constituents after an event in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood announcing state funding for naloxone for first responders. (Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf talks to constituents after an event in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood announcing state funding for naloxone for first responders. (Aaron Aupperlee | Tribune-Review)

Pittsburgh park rangers will be equipped with naloxone and trained to use it to revive people who have overdosed on heroin or other opiates, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said Thursday.

Hissrich said the goal is to be able to save more lives in the city.

“So that we can help those individuals get into further treatment and hopefully provide opportunities for them to continue on their lives opiate free,” he said Thursday, speaking in front of the fire station in Homewood.

At the same event, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $5 million in state funding in put 120,000 doses of naloxone in the hands of first responders across the state.

Naloxone, also known by the brand-name Narcan, can reverse an opiate overdose and revive someone. The medication is carried by firefighters, police and paramedics.

The drug company Adapt Pharma will supply the Narcan to first responders. Based in Ireland, Adapt Pharma has its U.S. headquarters in Radnor near Philadelphia. Wolf said Adapt Pharma won a competitive bid to provide Narcan under the program.

“We cannot afford to keep losing lives,” Wolf said.

Hissrich said in the past year, Pittsburgh firefighters have used Narcan 798 times. Paramedics in the city have used Narcan 2,485 times in last three years, and since Pittsburgh police officers started carrying the drug late last year, they have used it 147 times. Firefighters in Homewood have used the drug 40 times in the past year.

“Today, the fact that the governor is announcing the availability of more naloxone is really music to our ears,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

Hacker and other public safety officials stressed that equipping more people with doses of naloxone increases the odds of saving someone from an overdose.

Pittsburgh fire Lt. John Gardell, who works out of the Homewood station, underscored this point. One day, while driving to the fire department's training facility, Gardell witnessed an car crash. As he responded, he learned that the driver involved in the crash had overdosed.

Gardell gave the person two doses of Narcan at the scene and was able to revive the person.

“To me, that means everything,” Gardell told the crowd gathered outside the Homewood fire station. “As first responders, our ability to save a life with this life-saving drug is what's most important.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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