Local Agencies Using Life-Saving Drug Narcan to Revive Victims

Narcan used to revive people who may have overdosed on opioids

WINNEBAGO COUNTY -  Drug overdose deaths are a problem plaguing communities across the U.S.- including right here in the stateline.

Leading many local agencies carry Narcan to combat the problem.

The Rockford Fire Department and Winnebago County Sheriff's Department spoke with us saying although overdose deaths are on the rise, the number of victims would be even higher without the life-saving drug.

"Narcan's been around for quite a long time. We've been carrying it in our ambulances since the late 70's," said Lieutenant Bob Vertiz, the EMS Coordinator for the Rockford Fire Department. "But only recently with the crisis of the opioid epidemic have we started using it much more frequently."

Vertiz says the department has been using the life-saving drug, Narcan, to revive people who may have overdosed on drugs.

"As an average, we're seeing about one overdose or suspected overdose every 36 hours," said Vertiz.

Narcan revives victims by reversing the progress of an overdose so they can start breathing again.

The drug does appear to be working.

"We've used it on 165 suspected opioid overdoses so far, year to date," said Vertiz. "In comparison to last year, year to date, it's been about a 31% increase."

Winnebago county sheriff's deputies are equipped with Narcan as well.

Deputy Chief Dominick Barcellona says the department must use it on victims several times a week.

"I think we use it more than we should because of the epidemic that we have. And saying that, I mean, there's a problem."
Barcellona says many lives have been saved because of Narcan.

But, deputies don't always make it to a victim before it's too late.

The Winnebago County Coroner says 50 people have died from a drug overdose through July 9th.

Last year's total was 96.

"I definitely see us passing that number by the end of the year," said Winnebago County Coroner Bill Hintz.

Officers and firefighters aren't the only ones who can get Narcan.

It's also available at many pharmacies over the counter.

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