Fentanyl crisis impacting Upstate first responders

In Depth: Anderson Co. Emergency Management Services & the Fentanyl Crisis
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 12:20 PM EDT
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ANDERSON, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Fox Carolina is going in depth, and taking a look at how fentanyl crisis is impacting first responders right here in the upstate.

Margaret-Ann Carter spoke with Anderson County Emergency Management Services about the significant rise and found how the county is paying for it.

Anderson County first responders are fighting this epidemic from the front lines. County EMS director, Steven Kelly says, they’re now responding to 60 percent more calls than last year.

“On any given day, on average we may dispatch 6,7,8 overdose type calls to ambulances out of those type of responses,” Kelly says about half of those people will need Narcan administered, “it’s very easy to say we go through 12 to 15 of the vials in any given week.”

Narcan is an opioid reversal drug given to overdose patients. It can be administered in two ways.

“The nasal Narcan is provided to law enforcement and fire through a state grant it no charge to them,” Kelly explained.

The other way to administer Narcan is through an IV, which is used by paramedics, and costs roughly $122 per vial. Kelly says, they use 2 or 3 vials a day, and sometimes one patient will need more than one vial.

So, if this trend continues and Anderson County EMS crews use roughly 3 vials of Narcan a day, that’s about $140,000 of Narcan being administered a year, not including any other services.

Kelly says, if the patient is insured then the department can recoup some of that money, most are not.

County EMS aren’t the only ones overpaying for the overdose reversal drug.

We spoke with a group of mothers who have lost their child to fentanyl. They say, access to Narcan is limited.

“Fentanyl is winning in our state. We are way behind, we have no rehabs, we have limited access to Narcan,” Holly Alsobrooks said while rallying outside of the state capital in Columbia.

Alsobrooks has rallied outside of the capital for the last 3 years after losing her son to fentanyl.

“Great we can get Narcan now without a prescription, it costs $75 a box to go into the drugstore and get it how is that accessibility. It is not accessibility, we can not, no one can afford that, especially when it takes 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 boxes to take someone out of an overdose using Narcan,” Alsobrooks explained.

The limited accessibility and higher prices can be felt from the upstate to the coast, which is why these mothers will continue to fight for change.

In Anderson EMS is funded by the county, in addition they receive $1.4 Million through a partnership with Anmed, who helps with follow up programs.

A county spokesperson says they will be receiving funds from the state’s opioid settlement funds. Right now the guaranteed political subdivision subfund has $1,795,485.53.

County leaders are currently investigating the best use for it.

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