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News Brief: GB Fire Department now equipped with Narcan to treat overdoses

“We have a 150-year history of finding ways to improve service to the community, even if it means branching out from our standard scope of work.” -- Fire Chief Charles Burger

Great Barrington — Fire Chief Charles Burger has announced that the Great Barrington Fire Department has begun carrying epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens) and nasal Naloxone (Narcan) in an effort to be better prepared for anaphylactic shock and opioid overdose emergencies.

The Fire Department began carrying EpiPens and Narcan on July 25. Because firefighters are frequently first on scene, it is imperative that they are equipped with the necessary tools to conduct the highest level of care.

EpiPen is a disposable, pre-filled automatic injection device that can be used to administer epinephrine in the event of a severe allergic reaction. Narcan is an opioid antagonist that quickly reverses the effects of a potentially fatal overdose by displacing the drug from the receptors in the brain. It has minimal side effects, is not dangerous if given to a person who is not overdosing, and it has no potential for abuse.

All Great Barrington firefighters have been trained in recognizing symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and opioid overdose, along with how to administer each drug.

“It is good to have local partners in EMS who can begin treatment prior to our arrival,” said Bill Hathaway, Director of Operations for Southern Berkshire Ambulance.

“On the ambulance we have used Narcan on multiple overdose cases during the past year,” said Lt. A. J. Anderson, who is also a paramedic with Southern Berkshire Ambulance. “Overdosing on opioid-based drugs can lead to death if not recognized quickly and treated appropriately.”

The process took months to come to fruition and involved the Great Barrington Fire Department obtaining a controlled substance license from the Massachusetts Department of Health and establishing a partnership with Fairview Hospital, which provides the EpiPens and Narcan through their pharmacy. The initiative was led by Lt. Anderson with assistance from David Katzenstein, who recently completed the process for the Egremont Fire Department.

“I am thankful for the work of Lt. Anderson, along with Dr. Alec R. Belman, Linda Jackson, and others at Fairview Hospital, which made this all possible. Hopefully, we do not encounter these emergencies often, but when we do we are ready,” said Chief Burger. “We have a 150-year history of finding ways to improve service to the community, even if it means branching out from our standard scope of work. This is the next step in building on that tradition.”

Great Barrington Health Agent Jayne Smith, Cara Becker, assistant to the Police Chief, and Selectboard member Stephen Bannon have also been active on a local task force working to deal with the opioid epidemic. One of their objectives has been to increase the availability of Narcan for rapid treatment.

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