By Ashley M. Casey
As the number of heroin deaths climbs throughout Central New York, public safety officers in Fulton are taking steps to prevent overdose tragedies.
The Fulton Fire Department and the Cayuga Community College Department of Public Safety are in the process of certifying their officers in the use of an intranasal antidote for heroin overdose.
Naloxone — available under the brand name Narcan — blocks opiate receptors in the brain, preventing the slowed breathing and possible suffocation caused by overdose.
“It’s almost like strangling. You turn blue and you can’t get any oxygen,” said Chief Scott Shaft, CCC director of public safety.
Naloxone is administered nasally. Shaft said this method is much easier to learn to administer than an injection.
“This is very simple. You just squirt it, almost like a sinus medicine,” he said.
CCC’s public safety officers received training through the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Shaft, whose department includes about 20 officers between the Auburn and Fulton campuses, said he is seeking to have all of his officers certified to administer naloxone by the beginning of the fall semester. That includes about five officers on the Fulton campus. He said CCC’s on-campus nurses will be certified as well.
“Hopefully we’ll be up and running by the start of classes,” Shaft said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded access to naloxone as part of his statewide initiative to combat the heroin epidemic. Now, more than 600 first responders in New York will be trained to use naloxone. Shaft applauded the move.
“It’s nice to see the state move so quick on something. It’s people’s lives,” Shaft said.
CCC isn’t the only agency in Fulton looking to use naloxone. The Fulton Fire Department is in the process of training its 34 firefighters in the use of the medication.
“At the present time, we’re on track to be certified by October,” said Fulton firefighter Adam Howard. “The whole department is at basic EMT level and will be certified in basic Narcan use.”
The Fulton Police Department has no plans yet to certify its officers in the use of naloxone.
For now, naloxone is available only through a prescription. Shaft said the doctor who led his staff’s training wrote a prescription that should last two years.
“By the time we need to renew it, hopefully it won’t be a prescription medication,” Shaft said. “It’ll be just another tool in the first aid kit.”