Fall River firefighters concerned with spike in overdose deaths citywide

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Firefighters in Fall River say calls for drug overdoses are far too common in their city, estimating they respond to an average of 10 every day.

Fall River is currently dealing with a spike in overdose deaths as a strain of lethal Fentanyl circulates throughout the city.

Eyewitness News has learned there have been four overdose deaths in the month of February alone. Mayor Paul Coogan said three of those deaths were former students of his at Durfee High School.

“It hurts to see that happen – a loss of life at that age,” Jason Burns, president of IAFF L1314 said. “It’s also frustrating. You want the people to get resources and not go down this path.”

Burns, the head of the city’s firefighters’ union, said when his crew responds to an overdose, they check the person’s eyes, pulse, and ability to breathe normally.

“When we roll up on scene, we can hear this gag, or this large snore, so their body is starting the process of shutting down,” Burns said. “Or, if we got the call late, they’re just not breathing.”

Burns said at that moment, crews have to evaluate whether to administer Narcan. He said in early 2015, firefighters in the city were able to get Narcan on every apparatus.

He tells Eyewitness News it’s been a game-changer, but also said it’s not always effective, especially when dealing with fentanyl.

“Two milliliters or four milliliters used to revive someone very quickly,” Burns said. “What we’re finding now is it’s four-to-eight [for people who have overdosed on fentanyl], or it’s not working. A patient presents the same, whether they overdose from a pill, opioid or fentanyl, but it’s taking more medicine to revive them.”

According to numbers provided by the state, 55 people died of a drug overdose in Fall River in 2018. Coogan said the number of overdose deaths rose to 63 last year.

Burns said if you use drugs, you should also use common sense. He said he understands addiction can be a real issue but also said he knows the high isn’t worth the risk.

“That’s what I feel when I look at a 24-year-old who just overdosed. It’s not worth it. Your life is worth more,” he explained.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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