Toms River will equip all of its ambulances with Narcan, a drug recently approved for use in New Jersey which temporarily reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.
The decision on the part of Toms River officials comes following a waiver having been granted by the commissioner of the State Department of Health that allows Emergency Medical Technicians to administer the drug. Previously, only trained police officers were able to carry it.
According to Paul Daley, the township's Emergency Management Coordinator and Director of EMS, in 2013 the Toms River Township EMS responded to 182 overdoses, many of which could have been reversed by Narcan.
"Narcan can reverse the overdose in minutes, often allowing victims to breathe without assistance," said Daley.
In order to qualify to carry the medication, the program’s EMTs were required to complete a course of instruction approved by the State Department of Health and the EMS program medical director, Dr. Lawrence DesRochers.
Toms River employs 16 full-time Community Service Officer EMTs and provides emergency medical service. There are also five volunteer EMS agencies. The volunteers will likely be equipped with Narcan eventually, officials said, and training for those squads is ongoing.
According to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, six lives have been saved so far in 2014 thanks to Narcan. Police officers have been equipped with Narcan since early April.