Staten Island has the first 911 system of first responders fully trained to administer a life saving medication that can reverse the effects of a drug overdose. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.
Paramedics with the Fire Department of New York have been saving the lives of drug overdose patients with Naloxone for nearly a decade, administering the medication 2,800 times in 2013 and already more than 700 times in 2014.
"This will bring someone back from the dead. Somebody who's on the brink of death, back to breathing," says Richmond University Medical Center Emergency Medicine Department Chairman Dr. Mansoor Khan.
After a successful pilot program with Staten Island police, the FDNY announced last month that all engine companies and basic emergency medical technicians would undergo training to administer Naloxone.
EMTs at Richmond University Medical Center were the first to get certified. Six-year veteran Michael Diglio says it will make doing his job easier.
"Normally when we get on scene the mechanic is that we would have to find out that it was an overdose and then call for the appropriate backup which could take anywhere from four minutes to 10 minutes depending on where they are. Or we could transport them directly to a hospital," says Diglio.
But now with a quick pump of a spray in the patients' nostrils EMT's can stop the effects of the overdose right away.
"It's one of the most important things we've had since the defibrillator training. It's definitely going to save lives," says Diglio.
Staten Island is the starting point of the expansion because it's where prescription drug abuse is the highest in the city. South Beach and Tottenville are the hardest hit by the epidemic.
"Unfortunately we are four times higher than Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan right now," says Richmond University Medical Center President and CEO Daniel Messina.
"Just in the ER yesterday, I was working the ER and we saw four or five patients at one time coming in on opioid abuse," says Dr. Khan.
And it's just the beginning of the expanded use of Naloxone, there are policy discussions under way on how to prevent chemical addictions in the first place, and efforts to make it even more difficult to get a hold of prescription drugs.
"It's a problem that the borough is working on. But until that time we need this medication and we need to make it more available," says Richmond Medical Center EMS Medical Director Cindy Baseluos.
All 3,000-plus members of the FDNY will be trained to administer Naloxone by the end of June.