Volunteer fire department tackles drug overdose epidemic

Volunteer fire department tackles drug overdose epidemic

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Whitesville Rural Volunteer Fire Department is saving lives in Berkeley County by administering the drug Naloxone to drug overdose victims.

Whitesville Rural Volunteer Fire Department has about 50 people on staff and is made up mostly of volunteer firefighters and operates in Berkeley County.

“All of these guys have been trained on administering this medication,” Lt. Colt Roy of the Whitesville Rural Volunteer Fire Department said.

The department started using Naoloxone a few weeks ago as an effort to fight the drug overdose epidemic hitting South Carolina and their local community.

Naloxone is a generic-brand drug that can be used as a substitute for Narcan. Both drugs can be administered to save the life of people who overdosed on drugs, but Naloxone is much cheaper.

So far, Roy said the department has saved at least three people with the medication.

“Typically, we respond to about 100 calls per year, roughly eight calls per month, with someone having some kind of an opioid overdose,” Roy said.

According to a recent report from DHEC, there were 1006 drug overdose deaths in South Carolina in 2017.

That’s a 40 percent increase in three years, when there were 716 deaths in 2014.

DHEC also reports South Carolina had the ninth-highest opioid prescribing rate per 1,000 residents in the country.

“What we’re seeing more and more of is actually not substance abuse or people trying to get high or abuse the product,” Roy said. “We’re seeing doctors prescribe this a lot more.”

Roy said to his knowledge, they are the first rural, volunteer fire department to start using Naloxone through licensing with DHEC.

But Roy is encouraging other departments to follow suit.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re protecting them from a fire, a wreck or a medical emergency,” Roy said. “Our job is to protect lives, and that’s what we’re doing.”

118 people died from a drug overdose in Charelston County in 2017, according to DHEC’s latest report. That is more than Berkeley and Dorchester counties combined.

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