LUTZ, Fla.-- Beginning next month, Pasco County Fire Rescue plans to begin stocking its rescue and fire trucks with pain medications that are alternatives to opioids.

  • PCFR will stock trucks with opioid alternatives
  • The switch begins next month
  • Purple Flag Project, raises awareness to opioid epidemic

"In the past, myself with all the other paramedics have had to look at somebody that we knew was in pain, but they really didn't want or need to have a morphine or a high potency opioid," said Pasco County Fire Rescue Chief Tim Reardon.

Aside from opioids like morphine and fentanyl, crews were only able to offer basic solutions for lower levels of pain, like ice.

"It's unacceptable. It's just unacceptable," said Pasco County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Mike Wells. "We owe it to the residents."

Wells said he became involved in the push to offer a wider variety of painkilling options after the county announced plans to sue opioid manufacturers earlier this year.

"Everybody knows a family member, friends. They have to deal with it every single day, people that struggle with this, and I think it's going to give them a sense of pride when they can offer somebody something different," Wells said. 

According to Reardon, toradol, IV acetaminophen, ketamine, and nitrous oxide are the drugs that will be added to trucks beginning next month. 

"It's about getting them into your system fast enough to work so that you feel it, because we are only with the patient for a short amount of time," he said. 

Pasco has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic. Reardon said the fire rescue crews' use of Narcan has increased by ten percent each of the past three years because of it. He said he welcomes the chance to avoid using the highly addictive medications if possible.

"No one knows when that first time that they get the medication, no one knows when that is that starts an addiction. So, if you have every opportunity not to give it, why not?" Reardon said. 

Reardon said it's going to cost $66,000 to purchase the initial stock of medication. 

In addition to the new medications, Pasco County Fire Rescue is launching the Purple Flag Project. The effort is aimed at raising awareness to the opioid epidemic and highlighting Narcan use. 

A counter on their web site will list how many times Narcan has been administered in the county during the current calendar year. 

For more information about the Purple Flag Project, click here.