Paramedics and EMTs from both Waterville fire and Delta Ambulance work Wednesday to resuscitate a man on the side of Harris Street in Waterville. Officials later said Narcan was used to revive the man, who was experiencing a drug overdose. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Emergency workers frequently revive and save the lives of drug overdose victims, though their efforts may not be as visible as the rescue they performed Wednesday.

In broad daylight, and in clear view of passersby on North Street, city fire officials and Delta Ambulance crews helped save a man’s life by administering Narcan, a drug used to treat victims by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said later that opioid overdoses are on the increase, a fact that has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have an opioid epidemic across this country and I think it’s kind of taken a back seat to COVID the last year and a half,” Massey said. “It is concerning, alarming, the number of overdoses that we are experiencing. I’d like to think it’s going down but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.”

On Wednesday, the man officials attended to along the road survived, according to Massey. He noted that the city’s fire department responds to such calls and administers Narcan to people who overdose, frequently on fentanyl, which is a powerful synthetic opioid that has been showing up in 65% of Maine drug overdose deaths.

Waterville Fire Chief Shawn Esler confirmed overdoses are increasing, citing as 18 the number of times emergency workers have administered Narcan in 2021, so far, with more than four months left in the year. Last year, the total was 13.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of overdoses  as of lately,” Esler said. “People of all ages, both men and women. There’s no question that this is concerning to us as a fire department. We genuinely care about people in our community and when they’re in crisis, we hope they reach out and use our services, rather than the alternative.”

Paramedics and EMTs from both Waterville fire and Delta Ambulance work to resuscitate a man Wednesday on the side of Harris Street in Waterville. Officials later said Narcan was used to revive the man, who was experiencing a drug overdose. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Esler said there’s no doubt that administering Narcan has contributed to saving people’s lives.

“We see it regularly,” he said. “It’s through the quick work of our dispatchers, our bystanders, that we’re quickly notified in the event that someone has had an overdose. I’m a firm supporter, believer in Narcan. I’ve seen it work countless times and seen families get second opportunities with their loved ones.”

He said the city and fire department’s partnership with Delta Ambulance has worked beautifully and when fire, police and Delta officials respond to such overdoses, the patient is getting the best of care. Families, he said, will come back to the fire department and report that their loved ones who overdosed got better and improved their lives.

Massey noted that the police department offers a program called Operation HOPE to help people addicted to opioids get into treatment. Operation HOPE, which stands for Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort, focuses on enforcement, education and treatment with the primary focus on treatment.

Launched in 2017, the program enables those addicted to come to the police department, where they are treated with dignity and screened and placed in a residential treatment program. Trained volunteers, or “angels,” check with rehabilitation facilities around the country to find an open spot. The person is given airfare, if necessary, and sent there. The program survives on grants and donations.

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