Pubdate: Tue, 21 Jul 2015
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2015 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Chris Buckley


Mike Fendya was leaving the scene after assisting a disabled truck 
when Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone drove up and 
gave the Carroll police officer a Narcan kit.

And with it, he gave Fendya a legal blessing to administer the drug 
should the officer encounter a person dying from a heroin overdose.

About a week later, Fendya had that opportunity. With Monongahela 
officers in New Eagle on another call, Fendya responded to a report 
of a man unconscious on East Main Street.

The former paramedic quickly determined the man was suffering a 
heroin overdose and administered Narcan - becoming the first police 
officer in county history to do so.

On Monday, several area police officers attended a training course on 
the proper administration of Narcan at Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll.

Naloxone, marketed under the name Narcan, is a medication used to 
counter the effects of opioids, especially in overdoses.

Vittone said his office is using drug forfeiture money to buy Narcan 
kits for police. He said a $75,000 grant from the District Attorney's 
Association will further fund the effort in various counties.

Cheryl Andrews, Washington County Drug and Alcohol Authority 
executive director, provided one Narcan kit for each patrol car in 
the Carroll and Donora police departments.

Other departments are being trained in use of the drug.

Each kit contains two doses of Narcan, gloves and a face shield in 
the event officers must perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Vittone said heroin is a multi-faceted problem. He noted that 208 
people have died from heroin overdoses in Washington County since 2011.

"These are people who don't have to die," Vittone said. "Narcan is 
easy to use and will save lives."

Mary Lou Murt, Monongahela Valley Hospital senior vice president for 
nursing, said the hospital is handling heroin-related cases on a regular basis.

"We're happy you came to us," Murt told law enforcement personnel at 
the Monday event.

"This is our mission, to take care of people. The ultimate goal is to 
save lives. That's what we're here for."

Linda Zidek, Monongahela Valley Hospital paramedic coordinator, 
discussed the proper use of Narcan.

Officers had opportunities to practice the proper the administration 
of the drug, using mannequins typically used to teach mouth-to-mouth 

Signed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett in September, David's Law allows 
emergency responders to administer Narcan without fear of 
prosecution, Zidek said.

The law is named for David Massi II, who died of multiple drug 
intoxication in January 2013. His family pushed for passage of the law.

Zidek said that when an opiate enters a person's system, it affects 
the central nervous system, shutting down receptors that normally 
"tell" the body to breathe. In three to five minutes, the person 
suffers cardiac arrest - the abrupt cessation of heartbeat.

Zidek said that if an officer is unsure if a victim is suffering from 
heroin overdose, Narcan can be administered without fear of the drug 
otherwise harming the victim.

An overdose victim who receives Narcan usually begins to recover in 
three to six minutes.

Narcan is squeezed into the nostrils.

"What happens is, we are reversing death," Zidek said. "Death does 
not happen, because we are clearing that breathing path of those opiates."

Carroll police Chief Paul Brand suggested that his peers support the 
effort to provide both Narcan and training on its use.

"Law enforcement officers are out to protect and serve," Brand said. 
"We're saving lives. That's what's important, not only as law 
enforcement but as human beings."

Fendya said that when he arrived on the scene, the man to whom he 
administered Narcan was "barely breathing" and unresponsive. Within 
minutes, the victim was responding to the officer's voice, then 
sitting and standing.

Fendya does not see his actions as being heroic, noting he has 
treated countless people for a variety of life-threatening conditions 
during more than two decades as a paramedic.

"That's a human being; what else would I do?" Fendya said. "If I can 
save this guy and turn his life around ... ."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom