WEST CHESTER (December 2) – State Senator Andy Dinniman was recognized for his efforts to pass legislation and update state regulations to give police and emergency first responders access to the life-saving, anti-opioid drug Naloxone (Narcan) at a special ceremony at Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute on Tuesday.
“I want to thank everyone who made project Naloxone a reality,” Dinniman said. “This is another case of Chester County leading the way when it comes to the health and safety of our citizens. And it would not have been possible without the fine work of the staff and volunteers at Good Fellowship Ambulance, as well as the support of our police chiefs and law enforcement personnel. They are the real heroes here.
Dinniman, along with local and county officials, community advocates and law enforcement leaders, were recognized for their efforts in implementing Project Naloxone in Chester County. In less than a year since its implementation, Naloxone has been used to save the lives of 35 county residents.
Pat O’Donnell, a former Chester County Commissioner and past member of Good Fellowship’s Board of Directors, praised Dinniman for his work in cutting through red-tape in Harrisburg.
“A critical piece was getting it through Harrisburg, which proved longer and more difficult than we thought, and it would not have happened without Andy,” he said. “There were approvals we could not have gotten without his help.”
Last fall, Dinniman helped lead the effort to pass Act 139 of 2014, legislation that allows police officers, emergency medical responders, and others to carry Naloxone.
Shortly thereafter, Dinniman and William Wells, Director of Good Fellowship, also met with Secretary of Health Karen Murphy and Physician General Rachel Levine to discuss the importance of updating regulations that would have delayed the roll-out of Project Naloxone by several months.
As a result of that meeting, Dr. Levine issued written approval for emergency medical responders and EMTs to proceed with carrying and administering Naloxone months ahead of schedule. In addition, in October Dr. Levine signed a statewide standing order for Naloxone, meaning all Pennsylvanians now have access to the life-saving prescription drug.
Ethan Healey, a member of Good Fellowship’s Board of Directors and Director of Project Naloxone, said that the organization continues to promote and advance the use and availability of Naloxone with law enforcement.
So far, Good Fellowship has trained 37 of Chester County’s 42 police departments. Good Fellowship also launched the first Pennsylvania Department of Health-approved online Naloxone training program for law enforcement. Perhaps most importantly, Good Fellowship provides Naloxone training, supply kits, and resupply free of charge to police departments and sheriff’s deputies.
According to Good Fellowship, East Brandywine was the first Chester County police department to save a life with the use of Naloxone and Coatesville has recorded the most with eight people being saved from near-fatal overdoses.
“Police are a big part of the success of this program and the reason it’s been so successful,” said Kimberly Holman, president of Good Fellowship’s Executive Board.
Dinniman said the statistics of the growing heroin and opiod epidemic in both rural and urban areas across the Commonwealth are alarming and call for the expansion of important programs like Project Naloxone. He also said it was personally fulfilling to be able to push legislative action and cut through bureaucratic red tape to get this life-saving drug into the hands of the people who need it now.
“I also must recognize the parents and family members who have lost loved ones like Cathie O’Donnell and Jackie Smiro. Their passion and their ability to turn grief into action and to take this on as mission on both a personal and public level has been the driving force behind this initiative,” he said.
Finally, Dinniman said that in the new year he hopes to see Project Naloxone implemented in all Chester County Police departments and is currently working with Naloxone drug manufacturers to make it available to school nurses and Chester County’s four free community health clinics.
“Every life is important and everyone deserves a second chance at recovery,” he said.