Rangers and personnel at Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and forests will soon be equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would provide its officers with the medication, used to help minimize opioid-related fatalities.
“We’re losing over 10 people every day to this disaster,” Wolf said. “This is an epidemic that affects everybody in Pennsylvania – all across the state. Rural areas, rich and poor, men and women. It affects everybody.”
Wolf requested $10 million in the 2017-18 state budget to provide first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, with the nasal-inhalant version of the medicine, known by the brand name Narcan.
In 2015, Pennsylvania saw a 20 percent increase in overdose deaths over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, there were more than 1,100 drug overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania. Heroin and Fentanyl, a prescription painkiller, were the most common drugs involved.
Since 2015, there have been seven drug-related deaths on DCNR lands and more than a dozen incidents where overdose-related assistance was provided, Wolf said.
“Remember, this treatment for this chronic disease of substance use disorder is a lifetime affair,” Wolf said. “It starts with naloxone. It starts with the premise that someone has to be alive to get that treatment.”
Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy said first responders have saved thousands of lives using naloxone. She said adding DCNR employees to that list can only be beneficial.
“Knowing that all state park rangers will now have this medication and are trained to use it adds another opportunity for us to save lives and get people into treatment,” Murphy said.
DCNR enforcement officers will complete official naloxone training and maintain current certification status through the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. They will carry the naloxone kits in their vehicle while on patrol.