WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple announced on Wednesday that firefighters with the Wichita Fire Department (WFD) will now carry and distribute Narcan to victims of suspected opioid overdoses.

“This policy change, combined with funding, will save lives as we continue our fight against the fentanyl crisis,” reads the tweet.

“We want to make sure if they are first on the scene, and they’re encountering a potential overdose that they have the equipment to reverse that overdose as fast as possible so we can save more lives,” said Whipple during Thursday’s Mayor Watch.

First responders, including Wichita police and Sedgwick County deputies, have been carrying Narcan for almost a year now, but it’s not uncommon for firefighters to get to the scene first. That’s why the City of Wichita and Wichita fire will soon put Narcan kits in each fire truck once training is complete.

The WFD is about halfway through training its firefighters and anticipates training will be completed in a few weeks.

“Past calls that we’ve done [included] an overdose, we just basically had to just provide just basic life support,” WFD Battalion Chief Jose Ocadiz said.

When it comes to opioid overdoses, every moment counts. That makes this step in fighting the opioid crisis key.

“Those are moments where your brain does not have oxygen,” Whipple said. “So the sooner you can get a reversal of that overdose, the less likely you will have brain damage, and the less likely that person will succumb to that overdose.”

The decision to equip firefighters with Narcan comes just more than a week after the city approved a partnership with Safe Streets Wichita to put Narcan kits in overdose hotspots, including motels.

“There has been an increased city-wide on the amount of overdose calls that has increased for us so that there will be there is a need for it,” Battalion Chief Ocadiz said.

Whipple says this is just another step in the long-term goal to fight opioids.

A town hall meeting hosted by the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and Wichita Police Department last week highlighted some of the dangers of fentanyl in Wichita.

The Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center says the number of fentanyl cases has grown exponentially.

“In 2018, we actually only had three cases that contained fentanyl,” said Lana Goodson, Criminalistics Lab Manager at the Forensic Science Center, during the town hall meeting. “Our final numbers for 2022 are 698, which proved to give us a 552% increase in fentanyl in two years.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2021 that 107,375 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in the 12-month period ending in January 2022, and 67% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.