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Arizona given $3M grant to train EMTs, officers on opioid overdose response

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

PHOENIX — Arizona has been given more than $3 million in federal grant money that will allow first responders to be trained on responding to opioid overdoses.

The grant will allow the state to train more people in the signs and symptoms of opioid overdoses, as well as how and when to administer Naloxone, also known as Narcan, a drug that counteracts opioids to stop overdoses.

The grant money will be distributed over the next four years, at a price that is about $784,000 per year.

Taylor George, the section chief for Arizona’s Emergency Services and Trauma System, said the ability to intervene in opioid overdoses by administering Narcan has traditionally only been designated to higher-level, certified providers.

There are “thousands” of basic-level EMTs in Arizona, George said, who have traditionally not been in a position to administer medication. But this grant money will allow those basic-level EMTs to be trained in administering medication, George said.

The grant money will also allow the more than 20,000 law enforcement and corrections officers in Arizona to receive the Narcan training.

George said this grant money — and the training it allows — is important because properly delivering a dose of Narcan in a timely fashion can mean the difference between life and death.

“There really is a short time window and that’s why it’s important that family, first responders, et cetera, have access to Naloxone and are able to provide it rapidly,” George said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey declared an opioid epidemic in the state in June, after data from the Arizona Department of Health Services found a 16 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016.

This summer alone, officials believe there were upwards of 280 possible overdose deaths in Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is now tracking overdose data in real time. Since June, the department has recorded at least 346 possible opioid overdose deaths, with nearly 3,000 possibly opioid overdoses.

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