Lawrence + Memorial again supplying first responders with Narcan

New London — Lawrence + Memorial Hospital on Tuesday announced it would provide funding for 250 doses of Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, to be spread throughout 11 southeastern Connecticut towns.

It’s the second time the hospital has contributed to this aspect of fighting the opioid crisis. Last year, it donated enough money for about six police departments to purchase a year’s worth of Narcan.

The roughly $10,000 gift comes at a crucial time, as some fire and police departments have been running low on the drug while waiting on the state to come through with a budget.

“Opioid overdoses can’t wait for a perfect solution,” L+M President Patrick Green said. “They require immediate action, as we all know that a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death.”

Across the country, towns and cities have struggled to figure out how to continue funding naloxone as stronger opioids continue to emerge. In recent years, the cost of some brands of the drug has skyrocketed in response to increased demand.

Thanks to L+M, that worry is one that hasn’t weighed heavily on local first responders.

“We don’t have a budget,” Groton Town police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said after L+M made its announcement. “Were it not for their generosity and the generosity of a couple other organizations that have been giving (naloxone) to us, we wouldn’t be able to fund it right now.”

Speaking during the news conference, during which the announcement was made, Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward, state Sen. Heather Somers and other local leaders commended the partnership.

The most recent numbers, some noted, put Connecticut on track to see more than 1,000 fatal drug overdoses this year.

“We have so many grandparents raising grandchildren because we are losing a whole generation of people,” Somers said after detailing the opioid-related bill the state put into law this year. “All of us are going to have to put our heads together and do the best we can.”

East Lyme police Chief Michael Finkelstein also spoke highly of the agreement. He said responders in his town have used naloxone eight times so far this year. In almost all of the cases, he said, they had to use more than one 2-milligram dose. In all of those cases, the person who overdosed survived.

According to L+M spokesman Michael O’Farrell, the 250 doses will be split up according to need.

In Groton, Fusaro said he believes his about 65-officer department will get enough doses not to cover everyone, but to cover every patrol shift.

Ledyard police Chief John Rich said a similar agreement exists with Ledyard, a 21-person force.

Rich emphasized that it’s beneficial for police to carry the antidote because they’re often operating a scene ahead of medical or fire personnel.

In scenarios where officers have to enter an unsecured home, for example, he said emergency personnel usually lag behind. If officers stumble upon someone who’s overdosing in the home — or if they are exposed to a powerful opioid and find themselves overdosing — it’s critical to have naloxone easily available.

“This partnership is highly appreciated in Ledyard, that’s for sure,” Rich said.

Other municipalities and governments that are part of the deal include East Lyme, Groton City, Groton Long Point, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Mohegan Tribal Nation, Montville, New London, Stonington and Waterford.

In his brief statement, Green made it clear he knows naloxone isn’t a permanent solution.

“We know this is only one step in the right direction,” he said. “However, every step is one step closer to preventing an opioid death.”

“We know there’s a lot of work to be done,” he continued. “My hope is that ... we can demonstrate that we are fighting this epidemic together as one community.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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