Trinity County sheriff’s deputies and other first responders are being armed with another tool to fight drugs — the opioid reversal drug Narcan.
In June, five deputies were trained to use the lifesaving drug by Trinity County Life Support as part of the deputies’ regular medical training. More deputies, correctional officers and administrative staff are to receive the training in July. Officers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are also being trained.
After training, the drug is provided to the officers as well as volunteer firefighters and members of the public in nasal spray form by Trinity County Public Health.
Trinity County Undersheriff Bryan Ward is pleased the officers will be able to carry Narcan.
“At any point in time if we come across a heroin related overdose, if our officers can do anything to help that person, that’s outstanding,” Ward said.
Also, if an officer, firefighter or other person in the line of work is accidentally exposed to opioids, “they can help one of their fellow first responders,” he added.
Inadvertently coming into contact with the powerful opioid Fentanyl is a big concern Public Health had for law enforcement, said Marcie Jo Cudziol, Trinity County Public Health nursing director.
“It’s deadly and it’s being manufactured synthetically, so it’s widely distributed,” she said.
Officers have come across both prescription and black market Fentanyl here.
“We find it in our county,” Ward said. “It’s out there.”
Trinity County Life Support ambulance paramedics have administered the opioid reversal drug intravenously for more than 20 years. Offering the intranasal spray widely is a newer effort.
TCLS General Manager Shawn Poore said with the nationwide opioid crisis the state has made Narcan more widely available. He worked together with Norcal EMS Medical Director Eric Rudnick to put together the training for this area.
In January 2018, many emergency medical technicians from volunteer fire departments in the county got the training and now can administer Narcan, including crews from Hawkins Bar, Junction City, Weaverville, Hayfork, Trinity Center, Coffee Creek, Douglas City and Lewiston.
The training involves information on when and how to administer the drug.
“They (opioids) knock out the respiratory system and you stop breathing,” Poore said.
Of course, the first person to come across an overdose victim might not be an emergency medical worker or law enforcement officer. It often is family.
The general public can get Narcan at no cost from Trinity County Public Health or Trinity County Behavioral Health. There is a form to fill out, and staff from those agencies can provide the training.
The Narcan from Trinity County Public Health was provided by the state Department of Public Health and with state funding through Aegis Treatment Centers. About 560 doses have been distributed, said Cudziol, from Trinity County Public Health.
Based on reports that came back, “we had four saves from the Narcan that was distributed to the public,” Cudziol said.
She cautioned that 911 should always be called in the event of an overdose. “Depending on what the opioid is the opioid can outlast the Narcan.”
For more information, Trinity County Public Health can be reached at 623-8209.
Statistics indicate that opioid abuse is a problem in Trinity County.
Undersheriff Ward said in the last fiscal year there were eight overdose deaths in Trinity County: Four from heroin and four from methamphetamine.
Ward said the number of overdose deaths has been fairly consistent over his 18 years with the department. “I don’t think we’ve seen a rise or decline either way in the last few years.”
The Trinity Opioid Safety Coalition has been meeting to share information and solutions to the opioid problem here.
From Trinity County Child Welfare Services, Nikki Bradford noted that her first eight years on the job there would be one to two infants born per year who tested positive for drug exposure. Prior to 2017 she’d never had a case of an opioid exposed infant.
However, since January 2017 there have been 11 drug-exposed infants, four of which involved opioids. Methamphetamine exposure was also involved in many of the cases.
There are many new controls on prescribing opioids, and Trinity County Life Support statistics indicate that the number of TCLS patients requiring Narcan for an opioid overdose dropped from 14 in 2015 to 10 in 2016 and seven in 2017.
People have had their prescriptions reduced or cut off, noted TCLS Administrator Kathy Ratliff.
“They can experience many withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, agitation, all over pain, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and more, often calling 911 or going direct to the Emergency Department,” Ratliff said.
But she added, “We have seen a few patients, dependent on opioids for many years, go through the tough process of withdrawal, improve and actually feel better and clearer off the medication.”