OCALA, Fla. – Every time the Ocala Fire Department responds to an overdose, after rescuing and/or reviving the patient, firefighter paramedics will offer to leave behind the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
Ocala Fire Capt. Jesse Blaire calls it the Leave Behind program.
"The intention of the Leave Behind program is to prevent death," Blaire said. "It does prevent death, especially when we train the families to recognize what an overdose looks like."
Blaire said paramedics are responding to the same addicts over and over, sometimes as many as three times in one day.
"They can't help it," Blaire said. "They literally can't physically help it."
Blaire said when first responders leave Narcan behind, they also leave information about the overdoese reversal drug and addiction - including how to administer Narcan, and how to take advantage of several free resources in Marion County to overcome addiction.
"Now sometimes we go to the calls and the family has already administered Narcan," Blaire said. "Where we would've gotten there and maybe they wouldn't be breathing or have a pulse, now they're at least awake enough to answer our questions."
Blaire admits addicts may be abusing the Leave Behind program but insists in the short term it is saving lives.
"Narcan Leave Behind doesn't mean you treat your family member and go about your business," Blaire said. "I understand why people would think it's a controversial program. People say we're enabling people who are addicted continuing to be addicted because they know they can overdose and we're just a call away. I would prefer to just deliver Narcan to people who need it. If they use it, good. I don't know what they use it for, hopefully it's for their friends and family."
Blaire said paramedics will never know if an addict is given Narcan, revived, and never reports the overdose.
"It does enable them to a point, which is why we started the second half of the program which is connecting them to the community resources," Blaire said.
The Fire Department also added a Narcan button on its webpage where anyone can request Narcan and firefighters will bring it to a home within an hour along with the additional information and resources.
If an addict seeks help directly from the Ocala Police Department, the PD will grant amnesty and guarantee the addict will be given a bed immediately at a detox facility free of charge.
The Ocala Fire Department will evaluate the Leave Behind program at the end of the year to decide if it will continue but Blaire said all indications are that it will.