Finding new ways to fight the opioid crisis

In a supply room at Manatee County Emergency Services are boxes and boxes of Narcan, a medicine used to treat overdoses and reverse the effects of opioids. 

But treating patients is costly. The cost per dose of Narcan is around $43, and that’s just the beginning.

"We may have to start an IV with the IV bag. We may be administering oxygen to the patient,” said Larry Luh, the assistant chief of operations. “So when you take all those things combined, the total cost of one patient that's overdosed could be somewhere between $500 and $800 for that one isolated call.”

And Luh said the problem has been growing.

"Going back 10, 20 years ago, a paramedic may give out Narcan once a week, maybe once a month. We're giving Narcan out several times a day, sometimes double digits a day."

The total cost for Narcan for Manatee County in 2015 came in at $59,000.  That nearly doubled in 2016 at more than $109,000.  But so far in 2017, it's under $65,000.

That drop may be in part to the county's community paramedic program.  Emergency workers are partnering with substance abuse counselors to treat the patient and the addiction.

"We call the mobile crisis team to do just-in-time patient counseling and then align them with outpatient services," said James Crutchfield, chief of the community paramedic division.

It's a community problem with a community solution.

"Although community paramedicine has a hand in the pot to help them become successful, so does the church, so does Centerstone, so does Suncoast. So does your friends and neighbors; everybody,” said Crutchfield.

So maybe one day, the Narcan supply room won't have to be so full.