Police program saves lives
Published 10:11 pm Monday, March 27, 2017
Suffolk police officers have revived at least four people suffering from likely opioid overdoses since they started carrying a fast-acting antidote in their vehicles last month.
The Narcan nasal spray, which has a brand name of naloxone, immediately reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, which can include breathing problems and loss of consciousness, and can lead to death.
“In the month since they started carrying it, Narcan has been utilized by the department during four different overdose incidents,” Maj. James Buie said. “In the times we’ve administered it, the Narcan was able to bring the person back to consciousness, and they were transported to the hospital.”
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The program is a response to a nationwide epidemic of deaths from heroin. Now-retired Maj. Stephanie Burch got the ball rolling last year, and the kits became available for officers to carry in February.
It’s a problem in Suffolk and around the nation. Through October 2016, there had been 21 opioid overdoses and two deaths in Suffolk, Lt. Jesse Epperson, the lieutenant for the special investigations section, said in November. In 2015, the city saw 28 overdoses and four deaths.
The police department received a $5,000 grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation to purchase 60 two-dose packs. Two doses are sometimes needed if the person relapses after the first dose.
Buie said the police department will continue with the program.
“We will continue to replenish our Narcan supply as we use it,” he said. “If it saves one person, it’s worth it. In this case, in a month, it’s been effective in helping four different people. It’s most definitely a worthwhile project.”
The Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue already carried naloxone on ambulances and fire trucks, but a police officer is often closer to the scene of the call. Officers also carry trauma kits and automated external defibrillators, along with their knowledge of administering CPR and other first aid.
“They have a lot of tools they can use to administer first aid care to somebody if they’re the first responder on the scene,” Buie said.