Gundersen medical expert calls naloxone kit distribution “timely”

La Crosse County has 21 opioid overdose deaths this year already, Chris Eberlein of Gundersen Health System says

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance is going to become the first ambulance service in Wisconsin during emergencies to deliver kits containing a drug designed to help prevent opioid deaths.

Local medical experts say opioid overdoses are skyrocketing in La Crosse County.

“We had seen a decrease in our opioid overdose deaths over the last few years until spring of this year,” Gundersen emergency medicine physician Chris Eberlein, MD, said.

Gundersen Health System says 21 people in the county already this year died from opioid overdoses.

“We’re almost two times the rate we were a year ago for overdose deaths,” Eberlein said.

Tri-State needed to take action.

“So this is very timely,” Eberlein said. “We’re trying to get this out in the community and hopefully save lives with it.”

He’s talking about a kit containing the drug, naloxone.

“So, I call it liquid rescue breathing,” Eberlein said.

Opioids shut down a person’s ability to breathe. Naloxone basically reverses that effect.

“Naloxone knocks the opioid off those receptors, and the body starts breathing again,” Eberlein said.

Each kit also carries instructions on how to use the naxolone nasal spray, a list of addiction resources, and one more tool.

“A pocket face shield for rescue breathing that a bystander can use to start doing the rescue breathing to hopefully avoid a cardiac arrest,” Eberlein said.

Nick Eastman of clinical services says kits may also be handed out during emergencies where an overdose isn’t happening.

“If we recognize that there’s a risk of overdose either through talking with the patient or bystanders, or even maybe noticing things through the scene, we can distribute kits to those people,” Eastman said. “We may already go into it knowing that it might be someone who would be eligible to receive a kit.”

All that matters is saving as many lives as possible.

“The biggest thing is to prevent death,” Eastman said.

Eastman says about 80 paramedics and EMT’s will be going through additional training on identifying people who put themselves at-risk for overdoses.

The program is scheduled to launch next month.