TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - From June 2017 through the end of October 2018 there have been 15,543 suspected opioid overdoses in Arizona and 30,151 Narcan doses dispensed, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. DHS says the amount of money spent on opioid-related incidents in recent years has been on the rise by hundreds of millions of dollars.
In Pima County first responders are spending thousands on Narcan supplies.
The Tucson Police Department got a grant two years ago to pay for $16,875 worth of Narcan supplies. TPD says it gets some Narcan supplies for free through various avenues; one of those being through a partnership the department has with the Center for Rural Health at U of A and another through its relationship with Sonoran Provention Works which provides replacement doses and kits for officers to distribute at no cost. The department says since 2016 it has not spent anything on Narcan.
When it comes to the Pima County Sheriffs Department, deputies get Narcan through a state grant program. Over the past three years deputies say PCSD has spent $2,739.15 on Narcan and that the cost of just two doses is pretty hefty at $182.61.
As for the Rural-Metro Fire Department, Deputy Chief John Walka says the department spends $35 on a single ampule of Narcan. In terms of how often they use it, it varies. But Walka says medics with Rural-Metro are most commonly using Narcan to reverse a heroin overdose.
One of those medics with Rural-Metro using Narcan to do just that is Kari Spanarella. She’s been a medic with the department for 13 years and she says what’s most difficult for her is going out to calls for for kids that have potentially overdosed.
“I’m here to do a job, I’m not here to judge, and I don’t know their story," she said.
Spanarella says the most common demographic that she’s seen fall victim to overdoses has been men in their 20s to 30s. But in the past five years she’s noticed a change: a higher number of kids on whom she’s had to use Narcan.
“We probably push Narcan once a week, would be kind of an average for us. A lot of it unfortunately has to do with the demographics in the area that we service. But Narcan isn’t, and opioid overdoses (aren’t), ... specific to any demographic. It affects everyone,” she said.
To combat the emotional difficulty of that Spanarella says she takes advantage of the department’s peer support groups and she set limits for herself to ensure her own safety.
"For just for us, specifically, it’s something that we do deal with with the area that we serve,” Spanarella said.