Getting in front of the issue of opioid overdose

Every ambulance in the county has been equipped with Nasal Narcan. This could save the life of a person who has intentionally or accidentally overdosed on opioids. The state-wide initiative was managed here by the Wintergreen Rescue Squad.

According to Wintergreen's Chief of EMS Operations Mike Riddle, Nelson County has not seen an uptick in opioid-related medical calls. Nonetheless, the national data suggests it could become a problem.

“A severe opioid overdose doesn’t afford you much time to react. The patient needs Narcan, and they need it quickly. Without it, they may stop breathing,” Riddle explains.

Every ambulance in the region has carried Narcan, but in a different form. Now Nasal Narcan can be given by virtually any first-responder regardless of their training level. In the past only advanced providers could administer Narcan via injection.

Curtis Sheets, Chief of Wintergreen Fire & Rescue, said the grant that provided the Narcan kits came from the Virginia Department of Health, Office of EMS as part of a program called “Rescue Squad Assistance Fund” designed to assist with these types of initiatives.

“For this initiative it was just as easy for us to apply to equip every ambulance in the county as it would have been to have only focused on our fleet,” notes Sheets.

Typically grants through the Virginia Office of EMS require the applicant to match a portion of the funding. In an effort to get out in front of the opioid crisis, Virginia offered rare 100 percent funding.