Birmingham FD reports a 74% increase in overdose calls

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) reports a 74% increase in overdose calls, comparing 2020 and 2021 data from January to May. From January to May in 2020, BFRS responded to 103 opioid overdose calls. In 2021, that number rose to 179.

Not only is there an increase in calls, but there has also been an increase in Narcan needed to respond to each overdose call.

“We went through close to a thousand Narcan since January,” said Lt. Robby Allison; Birmingham Fire Department.” It’s taking more Narcan to bring everyone around.”

Allison said more and more of their calls are to overdoses related to fentanyl use. The stronger drug requires more Narcan to get patients breathing again. The fire department has tripled the amount of Narcan they carry in each rescue truck from three to 12 units.

“In Birmingham, we run a lot of calls. 70,000 calls a year,” said Allison. “We carry a large quantity of drugs in our drug box so you’re not having to go out of service to resupply because we’re running out of rescue units every day.”

The cost of Narcan has also risen in recent years. Allison said one unit of Narcan used to cost the department $7 three years ago. Today, it costs $37.

According to a recent study in QuoteWizard, Alabama has seen an increase in fatal drug overdoses by 31.3%. The data in the study was compiled from the CDC.

In 2019, 719 people died of an overdose in Alabama. In 2020, that number rose to 944. Fatal overdoses are not a unique problem to Alabama, but, the state is doing worse than the national average.

Across the country, fatal overdoses increased by 27%. Opioids account for nearly 70% of overdose deaths. Nationwide, more than 87,000 people died of an overdose in 2020, nearly 20,000 more than in 2019.

In Jefferson County, there has been a 28% rise in overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020, and a 35% increase in opioid deaths, according to Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates. Fentanyl deaths have risen 100% from 2019 to 2020.

Yates said the demographic for most overdose deaths are white men between 30-39 years old. He said in the last year, black men 40-49 years old have seen a 125% increase in overdose deaths.

To help combat the overdose calls local firefighters respond to, a church in Mulga will soon offer Narcan kits and train people on how to use them.

“It’s saved many lives,” said Senior Pastor Ron Green. “Narcan is an opportunity for that– it’s an opportunity for them to have another chance.”

Green, a recovered addict himself, also offers rehabilitation sponsorships and church programs for those struggling with addiction.

“This church, Short Creek Church will love you, regardless of where you’re at or what you’re going through,” said Green. “If you want to get to rehab, we’ll make it happen.”

The church will begin distributing Narcan in mid-June.

The Jefferson County Department of Health is now offering free online mail-order naloxone training. The Naloxone is available to anyone. You can email JCDH at naloxonetraining@jcdh.org or call 205-930-1065.

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