SARASOTA – As the opioid epidemic worsens, Sarasota emergency rooms and paramedics are on high alert and stocking up on the reversal agent narcan.
“For basically the first half of 2017 we’ve already had 660 calls where we used narcan,” says Assistant Chief of Administration for Sarasota County Fire Department, Rod VanOrsdol.
Now compare that number to 893 calls for all of 2016.
VanOrsdol says on average they administer narcan three times a day, which means they’re constantly refilling their supply. “Each truck carries I think two in their kit that they carry actually to a patient’s side,” says VanOrsdol. “Then in the truck we probably carry about four more.”
Paramedics work to pump the perfect amount of narcan, in hopes the patient will make it to the ER.
For Emergency Medicine Physician, Steven Kamm, this scene plays out almost on a daily basis at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. “10, 20 or more various overdoses of different types of medication that come through the doors here every week,” he says.
Each one is lucky if they survive. “We don’t know if this is gonna wear off in a half an hour or an hour and then they’re gonna go back in their coma again,” says Kamm. “That’s why we need to watch them for a while after we give the medicine even if it does work.”
Kamm says the patients aren’t the only ones in danger. “We’ve had nurses get punched, we’ve had techs get kicked, sometimes some of these patients will try to bite you and scratch you,” he says.
Kamm says it comes with the job, and there’s a bigger picture.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is probably one of the three biggest issues I’ve ever seen,” says Kamm. “So many young people are losing their lives, more so than from car accidents.”
What may be the most alarming fact of all.
“What we’re doing now is I think sticking a finger in the dike, we either need more programs, we need to cut back on the supply of drugs,” says Kamm. “We’re losing an awful lot of young people and it’s a real sad tragedy and it’s just truly a national emergency that needs to be addressed.”