Kentucky’s General Assembly had a bill before it to allow police officers to carry Narcan, since they are often the first responders to emergency situations in Counties without paid fire and rescue workers. The cost per dose of Narcan is about $20–far below the usual costs for failed life support on unconscious victims who never fully recover, if they recover at all.
Narcan works miracles. Sprayed up the nostril of a victim of overdose, blown by rescue breathing into the airway of an unconscious person whose heart is beating–Narcan temporarily reverses the overdose, and does it miraculously fast. Then one must get the victim to help and on oxygen fast. When the Narcan wears off, other measures may be needed to assure recovery. Narcan does not seem to have any harmful effect if it is given to an unconscious victim who is not overdosed but who is nevertheless unconscious when help arrives.
In Lexington alone, emergency workers have saved more than 54 persons a month for the past two calendar years. In that time, more than 1300 lives have been saved (about 650 each year). That cost comes to $26,000 spread over two years–well below the cost of the initial hospital stay of a victim of overdose with residual brain damage. Actually, only three of those victims would have had to die to leave behind a $26,000 bill for inexpensive funerals–not to mention the untold grief to families and friends.
If the program had only saved 21 persons in the two years, and if each had worked a minimum wage job for a year, their combined tax burden alone (21 x $1279.20) would have paid for the program. Over the two years, Lexingon stands to recoup better than 63 times, in taxes, what it spent on the program–from the people whose lives were saved, by making sure that fire and rescue workers were trained and equipped with Narcan to treat persons who had overdosed. It strikes me that there are few routine emergency runs that hold that much promise for the responsible bodies of government that fund them.
This year, Lexington is already projecting on the basis of monthly averages to use Narcan on 750 overdose victims, at a cost of about $1500. Those persons will likely add to legitimate local commerce more than $11,700,000 in wages, or in disability income. (The reader should bear in mind that many persons who overdose are making far more than minimum wage, so these projections are probably quite conservative.) While all the costs of such a lifesaving run are not represented in the cost of the dose of Narcan–few of these runs will be loss leaders. In other words, an organ of government that invests in saving lives from overdose is actually putting money in its coffers and assuring economic recovery.
Remember that Narcan Bill. The Commonwealth’s General Assembly failed to pass the bill, assuring that all first responders would be equipped to save lives. In effect, legislators are going to assure that the costs of life support, eventual recovery from brain damage, and vocational rehabilitation will be as expensive as possible, and borne by the taxpayers. The victims’ families who do not survive will become unexpected financial burdens to their devastated families who will bury them. And for this we must thank our legislators who made certain that a drug that is essentially harmless unless it saves a life will not be available to all first responders. I wonder if legislators are sending a message to persons with addiction that we are simply not ‘worth’ their time. Hopefully, this essay will dispel some of that idiocy.