In La Crosse, only Tri-State ambulance personnel are able to administer naloxone, or Narcan. It's a drug that can counteract cardiac and respiratory failures following a heroin, painkiller or morphine overdose.
Assistant Fire Chief Warren Thomas said they want to equip the city's firefighters with the life-saving drug.
“If we get to a call where we're a few minutes ahead of Tri-State and we know it's a known overdose, we can get this Narcan into the patient's system and start reversing the effects of that drug before a sudden cardiac arrest occurs,” said Thomas. “That would just be one more patient that hopefully would walk out of the hospital and try to get some help.”
The La Crosse Fire Department is one of many organizations across the state vying to be part of a new pilot program that would train more EMTs to administer Narcan.
Fred Hornby, the state Department of Health Services' paramedic and education coordinator, said he wants the program tested in urban and rural areas for one year.
“We want to find out, first of all, how much of a problem this is and second of all, we want to make sure we have the ability to adequately treat the visitors as well as the citizens of the state of Wisconsin,” said Hornby.
The state will administer the program, but local governments will have to pay for Narcan kits, which cost $20 to $30 each.