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June 12, 2014

Falls firefighters will now carry a powerful opioid overdose antidote

Falls firefighters will now carry a powerful opioid overdose antidote

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Falls Fire Chief Tom Colangelo has seen what the drug Naloxone can do and he’s a believer.

“I’ve used it and it works very well,” Colangelo, a former paramedic, said. “I’ve had people, on what I thought were their last breaths, and you give it to them and in less than a minute they’re sitting up and asking you, ‘What happened?’ ”

So starting immediately, all Falls firefighters will be equipped and able to administer the opioid overdose antidote.

“It’s going to save lives,’ Colangelo said with absolute certainty.

City firefighters will join a growing number of first responders across both Niagara County and New York state in carrying so-called Narcan kits. 

In April, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the creation of the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program. That program aims to enable every law-enforcement officer in the state to carry Naloxone. 

“Last year the state Department of Health said we’d be able to administer (Naloxone) and as soon as I saw that I knew we were going to do that,” Colangelo said. “We want to do it. We want to help the public the best we can.”

Law enforcement agencies across the country have reported sharp increases in heroin abuse over the last several years. Opioid overdoses killed over 2,000 New Yorkers in 2011, more than double the number killed in 2004.

“We’ve been seeing (opioid overdoses) for a long time, but it seems like there are more now,” Colangelo said. 

Since the fall of 2010, the police department of Quincy, Mass., the first department in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone, has used the drug 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses, a success rate of over 95 percent. In Suffolk County, 184 lives were saved in a pilot nasal Narcan program in 2012.

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