West Virginia First Responders Debating About Narcan

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Overdoses are a problem plaguing our region. Already this year in Cabell County, there have been more than 400 cases.

We're told 26 of those were fatal.

A new law will be in effect in West Virginia late next month, allowing more first responders to carry Narcan, a drug used to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose.

Now, there's a discussion about who should be carrying that drug.

One man, who said his life was saved by the medicine, wants every first responder to have Narcan.

Dean Delligatti is nearly 10 months clean, following seven years addicted to heroin.

He said his life was nearly over, after he injected too much in 2012.

"If the police didn't arrive and administer this, I would've died on the gas station floor," he said.

Delligatti is talking about Narcan. It's a drug EMTs are already using to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

A new law starting in late May means other first responders can too.

Huntington Police Chief Joe Ciccarelli said he's hesitant.

"There are a number of concerns, one of which is placing this drug in the hands of a police officer who's not trained," he said.

Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas said he's evaluating the pros and cons.

There are other concerns, like storing the medicine in cruisers and making sure the patient's health needs are addressed.

Some in law enforcement said EMTs have that covered.

"I don't know of an instance yet, that EMS isn't on the scene first," Ciccarelli told WSAZ.

Cabell EMS officials estimate their average response time is at most eight minutes, but generally less.

West Virginia State Police said they're working on a plan to carry Narcan, but the specifics are unclear.

They said they're evaluating cost, training and resources with nearly 700 troopers around the state.

They also said overdoses aren't their typical call.

But Delligatti said he thinks every first responder should have it.

"The Narcan could be like the straw that broke the camel's back, in a sense, if they're willing to seek help," he said.

He wants others to get the wake-up call, just like he did.

Cabell County's EMS Director Gordon Merry told WSAZ he believes Narcan is best kept with friends of family of an addict who can give that person the drug immediately.

Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas said he believes the opportunity for officers to administer the drug makes sense in more rural areas.

He said that's where it could take much longer for help to arrive.

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