City Councilman Sam Weaver
City Councilman Sam Weaver

Boulder police and fire personnel soon could be equipped with auto injectors containing nalaxone, used by some emergency responders to counter the effects of opioid overdose from drugs such as heroin and morphine.

In a recent note to the City Council's "Hotline" email list, Fire Chief Larry Donner said that both the city police and fire departments have been in conversation with its medical advisor, Dr. Todd Dorfman, regarding Narcan, one of the trade names for nalaxone.

"Dr. Dorfman will be making a presentation to Police staff on Narcan" this week, Donner wrote. "This briefing had been scheduled by (former) Deputy Chief Hayes, prior to his departure to Louisville. On the fire side, Deputy Chief Calderazzo has been working on a parallel track to determine if our crews should carry the Narcan auto injectors, based on local needs."

Dorfman's research, Donner noted, indicated that American Medical Response ambulance crews have administered Narcan about 100 times a year in the Boulder area.

"It is not a controlled substance, which simplifies potential security and inventory overhead for agencies using the drug," Donner told council members in his email.

'Usually, it's an opioid that causes the overdoses'

Donner's message was in answer to a question Boulder Councilman Sam Weaver had asked in the Hotline after reading national media coverage indicating an increasing trend of police and fire departments being equipped with nalaxone auto injectors.

"I was curious, with heroin and opioid overdoses on the rise, if we were thinking about the same thing," Weaver said.


Weaver's thinking was also prompted by conversations with members of the Boulder Youth Opportunities Advisory Board.

"One of the responses I got was to the question about drug use among teenagers. And that's that there hasn't been a huge change in marijuana availability or use, but what they had seen more of on the rise was people with prescription medications, whether from their parents or supplied by other kids," Weaver said. "And one of the dangers of that is potential overdose. And usually, it's an opioid that causes the overdoses.

"It looks like it's an emerging trend, and it looks like it's a case where it's hard to harm somebody, and I wanted to know if we are thinking about it, and it turns out that we are," Weaver added. "And I'm not surprised that our emergency services personnel are on top of this."

Timing will still be critical to crews' response

Boulder police and fire are not alone in pursuing the strategy. Longmont police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said Longmont fire crews already carry nalaxone auto injectors, as do the ambulance crews with which the city contracts.

"And we have discussed doing that with our police officers, but at this point our fire department will be administering that," Satur said. "Their response time is very quick, and they are trained medically to do those procedures."

Satur said the decision to equip Longmont fire crews with the drug was in answer to an increase in the abuse of opiates in the city. He said Longmont saw 46 overdoses from heroin and other opiate-based substances between Jan. 7, 2012, and Dec. 19, 2013.

The county coroner's office has previously reported that heroin-related overdoses in Boulder County doubled from 2012 to 2013, jumping from six to 14.

In an interview Friday, Donner said no decision to definitely equip Boulder fire and police with nalaxone auto injectors has yet been made. Should that decision be reached, he said, it will take time to fully train personnel in their use.

And they won't save everybody.

"If you have a person on the street who is experiencing an overdose, it can help," Donner said. "But, it's all a question of when we get the call, and when someone arrives on scene.

"If you receive the call too late, it's too late."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or