The Westfield Rescue Squad plans to equip its ambulances with the opioid antidote naloxone.

WESTFIELD, NJ – Looking to focus efforts on better fighting the opioid epidemic, local health officials are seeking statistics to help evaluate the extent to which opioid abuses are impacting residents.

Westfield Regional Health Department officials said at the Westfield Board of Health meeting on Monday that they would be reaching out to local and county law enforcement agencies to gain a better sense of the local extent of opioid abuse so the health officials can better know where to direct resources.

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As of September, law enforcement had deployed the opioid overdose antidote naloxone (commonly known as NARCAN) 219 times across the county this year, figures from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office show.

While figures had not been provided to the Board of Health for deployments within Westfield, Union Township lead the pack with 51 naloxone deployments, followed by Linden with 45 deployments and Rahway with 25, the figures show.

Across Union County, authorities reported 67 overdose deaths in the first eight months of this year, putting the county on track to decreasing drug-induced deaths from the 126 reported in 2017, the prosecutor’s office figures show.

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Megan Avallone, health officer for the Westfield Regional Health Department, cautioned Board of Health members not to underestimate the extent of the opioid epidemic’s impact.

“We have some data, but it is piecemeal,” Avallone said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where public health will really be at the table, fully.”

The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad responded to 55 substance abuse cases in 2017, said David Sloan, the squad’s president.

In the near future, he told TAPinto.net, the squad’s ambulances will carry the opioid antidote naloxone.

“Westfield police officers and paramedics do carry it,” Sloan said. “New EMTs are trained on the use of [naloxone].”

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh