La Crosse firefighters request heroin antidote to combat drug problem

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After a surge in heroin use in western Wisconsin over the last few years, firefighters in La Crosse are looking for a way to be more prepared when responding to drug overdose calls.

The La Crosse Tribune reports the department is applying for permission to carry and administer Narcan, or Naloxone, an antidote to opiate overdose.

Firefighters in the city respond to all medical calls and often arrive before paramedics.

"When we can start the intervention earlier, the better the outcome will be,” Chief Gregg Cleveland told the newspaper.

Since 2009, the department has seen a 53 percent jump in the number of drug overdoses, according to the Tribune. Firefighters have responded to 86 potential overdose calls so far this year.

The Wisconsin Emergency Medical Services office is launching a pilot program to put Narcan in the hands of more than 50 state agencies for one year beginning Jan. 1. The state will start accepting applications in November.

“The problem with heroin is huge in this city,” Cleveland said.

About 130 miles northwest in Hudson, authorities and community members held a forum in July to address the growing heroin problem after a recent spike in overdose deaths. The drug is to blame for 12 deaths over the last three years in the small city of about 13,000.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports heroin overdose deaths rose 50 percent in the state last year alone.

A Wisconsin lawmaker unveiled four bills earlier this month to help combat heroin use and addiction. The set of bills includes a measure that would make Narcan more widely available to first responders.

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