Heroin threat taking up more lifesavers' time

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Emergency crews are responding almost daily to people suffering from overdoses of heroin, and a special drug is bringing the victims back to life.

Rescue crews in Wayne Township save at least one person a day with Narcan, an anti-overdose drug. Firefighters and paramedics are twice as likely to save the victims with the drug, which reverses the potentially deadly overdose.

"In the last 30 days, we used Narcan 28 times. So almost daily," said Shane Hardwick, director of emergency medical services for the Wayne Township Fire Department.

It's all to cope with the growing heroin epidemic in central Indiana. The medics are now using Narcan twice as often as they did just two years ago.

Narcan is only given when the patient is at or near respiratory arrest - dying.

"These people are one foot in the grave," said Hardwick. "They are not breathing, they are purple and within a matter of seconds they are getting up, they're breathing."

In one of those cases, the victim was sitting in a car stopped near an intersection. He was unconscious, but had his foot on the brake. The fire department says that may have been the only thing keeping him from accelerating across the street into a kid's park.

"These people are shooting up and they're driving," said Hardwick.

He says that's new and so is the occurrence of multiple victim ambulance runs. Friday afternoon, two people were found dead of a suspected drug overdose on the southeast side of Indianapolis.

Now, IMPD carries Narcan spray. In the first six weeks of the program, police officers administered the life-saving drug nine times.

"There are cases of those officers being trained and within an hour, they are pushing it on somebody," Hardwick said. "It's a pretty neat drug to watch work."

In Wayne Township, rescuers say most of the overdoses they're treating have not been repeat victims, but mostly new cases.