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As Opioid Epidemic Surges, Bridgeport Fire Dept. Gets Critical Donation

The Rev. Nancy Kingwood of the Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program, second from left, presented 400 doses of lifesaving Narcan to the Bridgeport Fire Department on Thursday.
The Rev. Nancy Kingwood of the Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program, second from left, presented 400 doses of lifesaving Narcan to the Bridgeport Fire Department on Thursday. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — In 2015, Bridgeport firefighters administered Narcan, the fast-acting opiate-overdose drug, about every other day to people near the brink of death, according to Fire Chief Richard Thode.

This year, the number has jumped to once or twice a day, as the heroin and opioid epidemic continues to run rampant across the nation, he said.

So it was with great gratitude that Thode accepted a donation of 400 Narcan “overdose kits” from the Greater Bridgeport Area Prevention Program (GBAPP), which presented the kits Thursday morning at Bridgeport Fire Headquarters.

“At the end of the day, it’s about saving lives,” said the Rev. Nancy Kingwood, GBAPP’s deputy director.

The local nonprofit agency that operates a clean need exchange for heroin users received the Narcan doses from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Thode said the demand for Narcan continues to grow and the Fire Department, which is often first on the scene of a 911 call, had been looking for alternative ways to secure doses.

“We were looking under every rock and shaking every tree,” he said.

Narcan is administered nasally and can stop the symptoms of an opiate-based overdose such as the slowing of breathing and pulse to fatal levels, preventing death.

Fire officials estimate that roughly one third of all medical calls they respond to every day in Bridgeport are caused by drug overdose, totaling nearly 60 per month.

“Bridgeport firefighters and police officers deal with hundreds of overdose cases every year and this generous donation of life saving Narcan will help us prevent opiate users from succumbing to their addiction so we can get them into treatment,” said Mayor Joe Ganim. “Heroin and other opiates are cheaper to obtain, more addictive and more lethal than ever, and we are seeing the impact of this in our city and across the region.”

Ambulance workers also carry Narcan and Police Chief AJ Perez said providing kits for police officers may be a possibility in the future.

Across the state and in Bridgeport, overdose deaths are nearly double what they were in 2015. In the last 18 months, Kingwood said, GBAPP has seen 814 clients at the needle exchange, a 300 percent increase over the former contractor’s numbers of a year an a half ago.

“We have seen a very sharp increase in the rate of usage for heroin among the people using the needle exchange,” Kingwood said. “It is critical that we come together in partnership with the city of Bridgeport and provide Narcan to first responders.”

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