Health officials hope narcan kits will help with costs of drug epidemic

DELAWARE COUNTY, Ind. -- The State Department of Health is rolling out narcan kits to a handful of counties to help with the heroin and drug epidemic crippling many communities.

Each kit will be distributed to local county health departments. Delaware County and Marion Counties will both receive the highest number of kits at 600 per county. In Delaware County, the health department said first responders, including police and EMS, are the priority to receive the kits, followed by individuals with ties to drug communities.

Right now, Delaware County EMS purchases narcan through hospital pharmacies at more than $50/dose. This program will help county EMS save money if other first responders are able to administer narcan doses even before EMS arrive on scene.

"Anytime that we can participate in a grant or in a program like this that provides us with this tools, it’s going to be a benefit to the community," Rogers said.

Another cost saving benefit to the county would come with the need for less drug overdose autopsies and toxicology tests. Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn said each overdose death autopsy costs the county $2,000. So far this year, the county has already had more than 30 drug overdose deaths. Last year, the county had more than 60.

"I would like to see with the advent of the health department getting the overdose kits that maybe we’ll see a decline in those cases," Hahn said.

Cases with mixed drug overdoses are on the rise in the county with the introduction of fentanyl-laced heroin. Last year, the county had eight deaths related to fentanyl. So far this year, they've already had 13 of those cases.

"We do often see fentanyl overdoses where they take the cancer patches, the time release patches, and we’ll find those in the autopsy when the decedent will still have them in their mouth, where they’ve chewed that patch to get the fentanyl out and it acts that quickly on them that they don't even have time to swallow that patch," Hahn said. "We’ve had cases where we’ve had people with up to 12 patches on their body. It basically just shuts their respiratory system down."

First responders agree, narcan isn't a "cure-all" for the counties addiction problem and stress not all drug combinations will react to narcan. The county will be receiving the kits within the next few weeks. They will have training before they are handed out to agencies and, potentially, community members.