A new voluntary program in Pittsburgh allows EMTs to leave the overdose reversal drug naloxone, marketed as Narcan, behind with the patient, family members or friends at the scene.
That means the city is going to need more Narcan, but the money to pay for it will be coming from the state, with the ultimate goal of helping to save as many lives as possible.
"There is some pushback that maybe you're enabling the problem a little bit, but at least in the short term, reduce the chances that person is going to die and you create more opportunities to get them into treatment,” said Mark Pinchalk, patient care coordinator for Pittsburgh EMS.
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The drug is there to use, he says, but patients still need to call 911.
"If the person doesn't wake up with this, you don't want to lose all of that time in case there is a more serious problem going on,” he said.
It could also help make an unexpected drop in overdose calls more permanent.
For the majority of 2017, Pittsburgh EMS responded to 100-150 overdose calls per month. But since October, that number has dropped to 60-80 calls per month.
It's unclear if this is long-term progress or just a temporary dip, but Pinchalk says this is part of a much bigger puzzle.
"It's a piece of the puzzle. It doesn't solve the problem or make anything go away," he said.
Other first responders in Allegheny County tell Channel 11 they are still evaluating this process, and will soon decide if they will join the city in leaving behind Narcan as well.
Cox Media Group