EMTs, Recovery Coaches share experiences in honor of upcoming International Overdose Awareness Day


BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — BEST Ambulance EMT Robert Bays races to the scene when dispatched to an overdose call. He told 59 News it is a call they get far too often.

“Here at BEST Ambulance we average 5-10 overdoses a week and we’re small, Jan Care is probably double that,” Bays explained.

For overdoses on drugs like heroin, an EMT’s first order of duty is to make sure they can get the patient breathing, then administer Narcan.

“Narcan is an inhibitor that goes in and blocks your receptors so it’s pretty much taking all the heroin and drugs they’ve done and blocks or reverses it,” Bays added.

What many do not know, is that the lives of first responders can also be in danger when coming in contact with drugs on which a patient has overdosed.

“With heroin it’s not as dangerous, but we’ve had two fentanyl overdoses, and if powdered fentanyl gets on your skin, it can overdose and kill you,” Bays said. “There’s been countless cases of first responders who’ve died over the years because they’ve come in contact with fentanyl.”

Bays said many overdose patients refuse to go to the hospital after on-sight treatment, and from that point on it is all about trying to get them help from people like Recovery Coach Joanna Vance.

“There are recovery coaches that work with the EMS teams,” Vance said. “They’ll actually go out when someone overdoses that way someone will be on site who can talk to them. “

Vance said International Overdose Awareness Day, which is on August 31, spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. She said this is why she makes it her job to help victims struggling with addiction find a new way of life.

“It’s helping them find a job, hold a job, find a home, keep a home, and help with finances,” Vance said.

People can find Vance and local EMTs at the Beckley Overdose Awareness Day event happening Saturday, August 31, at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with addiction, Vance or other recovery coaches can be reached at the Southern West Virginia Fellowship Home at (304) 253-1441.

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