December 21, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
31°F
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Narcan program expanded for public use

Lobbying from Lorain County helped get a law passed Tuesday allowing people to use a nasal spray to revive heroin addicts.

Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans, Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera, state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, and leaders of the county’s Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board all sought to legalize Narcan for public use.

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a synthetic narcotic that blocks the effects of opiates, such as heroin, on the nervous system. The spray must be administered on an unconscious overdose victim before the person’s heart stops.

In 2013, the Legislature approved a pilot program allowing police to administer Narcan. Between October when the program began and the end of February, police in the county used Narcan 30 times and revived 28 people, Evans said Tuesday. Evans said the program’s success partially spurred legislators to pass the new law.

The law aims to reduce Ohio’s record-high number of fatal overdoses from heroin and painkillers — now the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio, surpassing car crashes.

There were a record 67 fatal overdoses in Lorain County in 2013, topping the 2012 record of 60 — compared with 22 each in 2011 and 2010. Evans said there have been eight confirmed fatal overdoses this year.

The law allows licensed prescribers to provide Narcan to an addict’s friends or family members. People administering the drug would be immune from prosecution as long as they call 911 immediately before or after giving the antidote.

It also must be obtained through proper channels. Evans said the board will work to distribute Narcan, which costs about $20 per bottle, to the public.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this epidemic,” he said. “We need to do something to save lives.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.