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Need for Narcan on the Rise in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - The opioid crisis is causing a strain across the state, but relief lies in a nasal spray.

Narcan (naloxone) doses have been administered by the thousands since 2017, a large portion of which coming from the state.

"Really, with naloxone distribution, we are taking that head on," said Matthew Parriott with the State Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services department. "We are preventing untold number of deaths through this program."

The program splits up the state regionally, with Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists, or ROPS.

These ROPS then train local law enforcement and other community groups, while their community coalitions distribute the Narcan where needed.

The need for Naloxone is certainly rising in Tennessee. From October 2017, to February of this year, the state has issued 35,000 allotments of Narcan. Of that, 14-thousand have been distributed to law enforcement.

"Our biggest target for distribution is first responders. Which are your law-enforcement, your EMT's, your nurses," said Trey Dees, a ROPS specialist with Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition. "Been involved in the recovery community long enough to see that people are dying, and that's the main thing."

The naloxone in this program comes mostly through a state grant, as part of a federal grant.

But the treatment is not cheap, and larger departments must buy some on their own.

During the 2017/2018 fiscal year, Nashville Fire spent just over $142,000 on naloxone.

Behind that number is a steady increase in both the price of the drug, and the number of suspected opioid overdose patients through the years.

Last year, nearly 1,800 suspected overdose patients had the drug administered by Nashville Fire.

In Montgomery County, naloxone was administered nearly 1,000 times in 2018.

Through March of this year, Murfreesboro Police have seen a 60-percent increase in administrations.

Alarming numbers, with an alarming price tag.

"It's $75 for a unit of Narcan. If you and I were to walk into a pharmacy, you would pay more than that rate," Matthew explained. "It's not cheap. And we know that it's a life-saving medication, it's the only reversal for opioid overdose."

Which makes the federal grant all the more important, and the ROPS training a necessity.

The state estimates this program has saved upwards of two-thousand lives.

News 2 is investigating the impact of fentanyl across Middle Tennessee. We have special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. You can also join in on the discussion during a live town hall meeting airing at 6:30 p.m. on News 2.

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