Southern Milwaukee County launches Narcan pilot program

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County firefighters and EMT's are testing out a new tool expected to be put to use on some of their most frequent patients -- heroin addicts.

Crews with Milwaukee County Emergency Services say the pilot program has the potential to save lives. Nalaxone, a medication more commonly known as Narcan, is most notably used in narcotic overdose emergencies.

State regulations had previously prevented first responders from administering the drug, however a new nasal spray version is now being made available to EMT's at six local fire departments for the next year.

Officials say this is not the first time Narcan has been piloted.

"The reason that it is a pilot program is because we're looking to increase the scope of practice for the basic EMT and this is just doing out due diligence," said Dr. Riccardo Colella with Milwaukee County EMS. "There are many communities across the country where basic EMT's are doing this type of intervention."

Milwaukee County EMS program director Ken Sternig says EMT's are frequently first on the scene and their ability to administer Narcan can be critical.

"It really makes sense for the best practice of the patients, and safety of patients, if we can increase the number of providers who can administer this medication," said Sternig. "The citizens will have an enhanced level of protection if they or their loved ones need it."

Fire departments in Oak Creek, Cudahy, St. Francis, Greenfield, Greendale and South Milwaukee will join the trial.

The cost of the program is being absorbed by the participating departments, not the county. Narcan runs about $10 per dose.