Equipment operator Anthony Barber, left, and Captain Eric Roepke, members of Springfield Fire Department Engine 3. Barber and Roepke were part of a team of first responders who answered 9-1-1 calls on April 24, 2022 for people who had overdosed on opioids. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

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Springfield firefighters have a new tool to try to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses. 

The City of Springfield announced Monday that emergency responders with the Springfield Fire Department are now equipped with naloxone (commonly branded Narcan) to treat people dealing with symptoms of an opioid overdose

Additionally, firefighters will provide leave-behind kits at overdose patients’ homes. The leave-behind kits include two doses of the opioid reversing medication, a CPR mouth shield and instructions on how to use it, as well as other resources for preventing infection and future overdoses. The kits include information directing patients to treatment centers. 

Firefighters have been training and preparing for using the kits, said Chris Roush, battalion chief for EMS and special operations with the fire department. They have been in use for about the last week.

Roush said the leave-behind kits are particularly interesting to first responders, because they help prevent future deaths. 

“We are in the business of conducting EMS care, and we want to have tools to reverse an overdose in the field,” Roush said. “The leave-behind kits are appealing, and are what pushed us into this fight, because they help us get ahead of the next one.”

The kits are a sign of a new reality for emergency responders and other health officials. The fire department has averaged about 400 calls a year related to opioid overdoses over the last four years, according to a press release from the city. 

Julie Viele, public health program representative for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said substance abuse is a priority for her department’s efforts. The department reported 99 deaths related to opioids in 2022. 

“For Springfield, more than 4% of our community has a substance disorder,” Viele said. “That’s a higher rate than the state or country, and it leads our mortality rate to also be higher than the state or national rates.”

The leave-behind kits are in use in other areas of the country, as well, reflecting the national impact of opioid addiction. A grant from the University of Missouri-St. Louis provided the kits and training in Springfield, Roush said. 

Reducing deaths, encouraging treatment

While the leave-behind kits might appear to enable the extension of an addiction to some, health professionals say they are an important tool in helping save lives, offering opportunities for addicted patients to pursue treatment.

“Ultimately, the goal is to help people live longer, happier lives,” Viele said. “Someone may not yet be ready to get treatment when they need to decrease or stop. The leave-behind kits are a tool to help decrease the deaths in our community.” 

Viele said that the health department is developing other avenues for fighting opioid addiction within the community. It received a grant from the National Association of City and County Health Officials to start an overdose fatality review board. 

The board will collect data from related health departments in search of opportunities to further address and prevent fatalities. With the help of members of a similar board from Hamilton County in Ohio, Viele said, the department will be at work creating the board over the next six months.

Joe Hadsall

Joe Hadsall is the education reporter for the Springfield Daily Citizen. Hadsall has more than two decades of experience reporting in the Ozarks with the Joplin Globe, Christian County Headliner News and 417 Magazine. Contact him at (417) 837-3671 or More by Joe Hadsall