A fast-acting drug that can revive someone who has overdosed on opiates will be in the vest of every state trooper in the coming weeks, Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Monday at a news conference in Waterbury.
In addition, officials plan to distribute that drug, naloxone, at opiate addiction treatment centers and make it available on ambulances. Eventually the state wants to allow doctors to prescribe naloxone to patients who would be able to pick it up at the pharmacy.
Shumlin announced the plan to expand access to naloxone as he stood beside R. Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama's "drug czar" who visited the state to see how Vermont is battling drug addiction. After the news conference he toured the HowardCenter addiction treatment facility.
Narcan, the brand name of naloxone, is a drug that is sprayed into the nose of a person who has overdosed. It blocks the effect of the opioids and restores normal breathing.
Someone who is unresponsive, not breathing and blue in the face will revive 30 seconds after receiving the drug, said Health Commissioner Harry Chen.
So far it is only distributed from two sites as part of a 500-dose pilot program. Four hundred doses were given to HowardCenter in Burlington and 100 to the HIV/HRC Resource Center in White River Junction.
About 140 of those doses have been distributed, Chen said. At least seven lives have been saved as a result, Shumlin said.
State police troopers will be able to carry the drug after they complete an hour of online training and an hour of practical training, Col. Thomas L'Esperance said.
L'Esperance Monday said he doesn't know how much the naloxone will cost or how it will be paid for, but is counting on help from the Department of Health.
"We'll find the money somewhere," L'Esperance said.
A naloxone kit costs the state $15, Chen said. There are 327 sworn members of the state police, which would put the cost of the drug itself at around $5,000.
In April all emergency medical technicians on ambulances will be allowed to administer naloxone, Chen said. Until now, only advanced-level EMTs were permitted to do so.
State officials also want to offer naloxone at methadone clinics, the so-called opiate treatment "hubs" that administer treatment drugs as well as coordinate therapy and other services for recovering addicts. Rutland will likely be the first hub to offer naloxone, officials said.
The ultimate goal, Chen explained, is to allow doctors to prescribe naloxone for patients to pick up in a kit at pharmacies.