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Tucson Fire program helps those who've overdosed and don't feel safe visiting hospitals

Posted at 6:25 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 09:25:28-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A new Tucson Fire Department pilot program is working to help those who've suffered an opioid overdose, but don't feel safe enough to get further treatment in a hospital because of COVID-19.

The pilot program is called 'Leave Narcan Behind'.

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“The ‘Leave Behind Narcan’ program was really designed to address a COVID related problem we discovered as part of our ongoing quality improvement initiatives," said Josh Gaither, the medical director for the Tucson Fire Department.

Gaither said after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, TFD EMT's and paramedics noticed more and more individuals who were suffering from overdoses were refusing hospital transport because they were afraid of contracting COVID-19.

He said this is when they decided to start a program like this.

“Refusals for patients who overdosed increased by two and a half fold so 250 percent increase following COVID and the number of patients that refused," said Gaither."

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Here is how the program works. When TFD gets a call about an overdose EMT's and paramedics will administer narcan, if the patient is conscious and refuses hospital transport TFD personnel will leave them with a narcan kit.

“The bag has in it information on how to give narcan, how to use the medication, the narcan itself, and it also has resources should the individual be interested in getting more help with their dependence," he said.

The pilot program is being tested out at three Tucson Fire stations 8, 10 and 14. Gaither said he expects it to be in the pilot stage for about one to two months.