New data made available to the RFT show that the City of St. Louis’ Fire Department deployed the nasal spray Narcan 10,249 times from the start of 2018 to the end of 2021. Narcan, an “opioid antagonist,” reverses an opioid overdose, bringing the overdosing person back to consciousness and stopping the depression of respiratory function brought on by drugs like Fentanyl.
Records from the STLFD, which tracks Narcan deployment by zip code, show that the 63111 zip code saw 1016 deployments of Narcan by firefighters and EMT workers over the past four years, the most of any zip code where the department administered the drug. 63111 contains the Patch and Carondelet neighborhoods in the southern tip of St. Louis.
The 63115 area code, containing the Penrose, Mark Twain and parts of several other North City neighborhoods, had the second most deployments of Narcan in that same period with 992.
More than half of the Fire Department’s Narcan deployments occurred in six zip codes in the southeast and northeast edges of the city: roughly south of Arsenal and east of Kingshighway, and north of Page between Kingshighway and Highway 70. The STLFD deployed Narcan in a total of 31 zip codes, many of which are outside city limits.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which began carrying Narcan in 2018, deployed significantly fewer doses of the drug than Firefighters and EMTs. The department does not track Narcan deployments, but does track refill requests, of which there have only been 50 in the past four years.
Addressing the disparity of Narcan deployments between police and emergency services, SLMPD police spokesperson Evita Caldwell explained, “patrol supervisors are using their discretion to reassign [overdose] calls to EMS when necessary” and this rerouting to EMS is “a trend that has increased over time.”
The Fire Department’s 10,249 deployments of Narcan do not include the unknown number of doses administered by librarians, social workers and coffee shop baristas who have in many cases taken it upon themselves to be trained with and carry the life-saving drug.
Indeed, overdose cases can happen anywhere: In May of last year, Delanie Muenchen was at a staff meeting at Kitchen House Coffee, which at the time had a location in the Patch, when she and other coworkers noticed a man collapsed at a table outside.
Muenchen, who recently completed a Masters in Social Work at SLU and volunteers with Tent Mission STL, ran a few blocks to her apartment, got Narcan, and made it back to the barely-breathing man in time to administer a life saving dose.
“I encourage everyone to carry Narcan,” Muenchen said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been somewhere it was needed.”
Narcan is currently available at Walgreens, CVS and other drug stores without a prescription, though it must be purchased from the pharmacist.
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