WESTFIELD – State Attorney General Maura Healey met with the Western Massachusetts Fire Chief Association to discuss the heroin opioid addiction crisis on May 28. Healey and local fire chiefs gathered at the Italian Fraternal Club in Westfield.
Healey said much of the meeting was spent talking about ways to get naloxone, or Narcan, to first responders in an affordable way. Narcan is a drug that can reverse heroin overdoses but has skyrocketed in price in recent years.
The rising cost of Narcan is a concern for the Attorney General’s Office, Healey said.
“We know Narcan is a life-saving medication. We also have seen the price of Narcan spike during the course of this crisis, and I’ve heard from the chiefs about the higher prices that we’ve had to pay to deal with this crisis,” Healey said. “That to me is really troubling. It’s why we sent letters to the manufacturer and to the distributers. That’s why we’re working with the legislature right now on means by which we can secure bulk purchasing of Narcan.”
She continued, “The goal is to get it in the hands of first responders as easily and as quickly and cost-effective as possible. That’s what we need to do. We had a great conversation about that and it just drove home to me how important it is to make this more easily available.”
Despite the increasing need for Narcan coinciding with its price hike, Healey said she commends the work first responders are doing in their respective communities. Fire Chief Mary Regan of Westfield, Fire Chief Joseph Conant of Springfield, Fire Chief David Mottor of Easthampton and Fire Chief Thomas Coulombe of Ware were among those in attendance.
“They saw this crisis first. They saw it on their calls. They saw it on their visits to homes,” Healey said. “They saw this crisis coming and really have been at the forefront of trying to combat and deal with this issue, so I’m delighted to think of ways we can better come together starting with getting Narcan in the hands of first responders.”
The issue of getting Narcan at a cost-effective price is one that the fire chiefs and their departments face must face on a regular basis. Regan said Westfield is averaging about two overdoses a month. The city has seen six victims who have required CPR. While four survived because of Narcan, two died of overdoses.
“It’s a stress on the system and it’s also a stress on the firefighters and first responders that are going out to these calls,” Regan said.
Regan said education, as well as funding, are crucial to fighting the ongoing heroin opioid crisis. Knowing the enemy, she said, can help prevent it.
“We’ve had instance in Westfield where a dad has had his 20-year-old son, a heroin addict, and he’s performing CPR on his son in the driveway when we arrive,” Regan said. “He’s administered Narcan because they have it in the house because the know they have the problem.”
Aside from Narcan, Healey said the meeting was also a chance to discuss what is happening at the court level in terms of identifying traffickers and ensuring people are getting the right medical treatment.