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Grant to help University of Arizona train first responders, fight opioid crisis

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TUCSON - The opioid epidemic is killing three Arizonans a day. 

Doctors and researchers at the University of Arizona hope a new multi-year $2.2 million dollar grant will go a long way to helping both the patient and the protector.

The university's College of Public Health is now taking the lead across the state to make sure every first responder, no matter where they live knows how to use Narcan, a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Narcan has proven a force in the fight against the crisis.  

"When you're a distance from a health facility, the difference between life and death can be seconds and minutes," Dr. Daniel Derksen with the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona said.  "If someone recognizes someone is in an opioid overdose situation, administering Naloxone, reverses those effects very quickly that it can save lives."

Brian Keeley is with Northwest Fire in Tucson.

All of its firefighters and first responders are trained and carry Narcan on their trucks.

"When you give this medication, it works within 30 seconds," Keeley said. "This is absolutely the lifesaver for any heroin or opioid overdose. It's the one thing that will instantaneously counteract and save a person's life."

Keeley stresses it should only be used as a last resort. 

"It should not be relied upon as it's okay to take or abuse these medications or these drugs because there is something that counteracts it out there," he said. 

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