CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Cabell County emergency officials are discussing their options now that West Virginia lawmakers have approved a bill to let first responders, friends and family administer potentially life-saving medication to people overdosing on opioids, including heroin.
Paramedics across the region have been using the drug for years. In Cabell County, Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli says it has saved a lot of lives.
"We've already had about 20 overdose deaths this year, and that number would be even bigger had we not been able to dispense the drug," said Ciccarelli
The bill was signed by Governor Tomblin March 9th. The law will put the drug into the hands of law enforcement and firefighters for if and when they arrive to a scene before EMTs.
Several agencies are in early talks about whether or not they will implement the law, but for Huntington police, Chief Joe Ciccarelli says they're going to keep the drug in the hands of paramedics.
He says that in Huntington, more often than not, ambulances beat law enforcement to the scene.
"I think for law enforcement in rural areas where that response time is dramatically different, then there may be some application there," said Ciccarelli.
The drug will also be made available to friends or family of those struggling with addiction, which Cabell County EMS Director Gordon Merry sees as just one more way to save a life.
"If my child had a problem, I would want the Narcan in case he did something and I wasn't aware of it and I could reverse it," said Merry.
Many emergency officials and legislators say they don't anticipate any problems in allowing people other than paramedics or medical professionals to administer the drug.
Family members or friends of those struggling with addiction that are interested in obtaining Narcan should ask their doctor or that family member's rehab center about the drug.
County officials say it's still unclear what kind of training, if any, family members will have to go through to use the drug.