Area officers will carry heroin antidote

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

Area law enforcement officers are often the first on the scene of a suspected drug overdose, and soon they will be equipped and trained to administer a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, which will enable every state and local law-enforcement officer in the state of New York to carry naloxone, an effective heroin antidote. COP will provide funding to equip each state or local officer with naloxone, known under the brand name Narcan, and train the officers to properly administer the life-saving drug.

There are still some details to work out before local officers will carry the equipment and medication, however.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, Chairman of the NYS Municipal Police Training Council, reported on the issue last week at the Yates County Public Safety Committee meeting. “State Sheriffs have been pursuing this and advocating for it. The one issue was it requires a prescription to possess and I am unclear how they are getting around that requirement. Law enforcement statewide has been asking for this as a way to save lives. We have seen increase locally in heroin use, and heroin deaths with members of the Penn Yan Police Department and Yates County Sheriff’s Officrs arriving where the needle is still in the subject’s arm. With this Narcan the possibility of saving a life increases tremendously. Often our police officers are first on the scene,” he said.

Penn Yan Police Chief Mark Hulse echoes Spike’s response and adds another caution: “The drug user’s expectation is that law enforcement and/or a family member is going to be there all the time to save them if they overdose,” he says, explaining, “The Narcan will certainly help save lives, however, it still does not address the rising drug use and addiction problem that we are dealing with daily.”

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged law-enforcement agencies throughout the United States to “train and equip their personnel” with naloxone. This call comes in the wake of a marked increase in heroin abuse throughout New York and the United States. Opioid overdoses killed over 2,000 New Yorkers in 2011, more than double the number killed in 2004. Across the country, fatal heroin doses increased 45 percent from 2006-2010. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that these numbers are still on the rise.

“Heroin is destroying our communities, and it’s time we looked at broader solutions to fight back,” said Schneiderman. “Naloxone is stunningly effective at stopping an overdose in its tracks, and putting this powerful antidote in the hands of every law-enforcement agent in the state will save countless lives. With I-STOP, we’ve managed to reduce doctor-shopping in New York and turn off one spigot in the drug crisis — now, we can turn our focus to the scourge caused by heroin. It’s particularly fitting that these efforts will be funded by money seized from drug dealers.”

The state Attorney General’s office has identified $5 million in joint federal-state criminal and civil forfeiture money that will be used to fund COP, which is enough to equip and train every state and local officer in New York with a naloxone kit. Each kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing two prefilled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and a booklet on the use of the drug. The cost of a naloxone kit is approximately $60, and the shelf life of each kit is approximately two years.

Upon purchase of the kits and/or upon payment for training costs, police departments or appropriate county or city agencies will submit receipts to the Attorney General’s office and be reimbursed in full. Some agencies already have partial naloxone programs in place and, in those instances, COP will allow for an expansion of these programs.

Since the fall of 2010, the police department of Quincy, Mass., the first department in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone, has used the drug 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses (as of February), a success rate of over 95 percent. In New York’s Suffolk County, 563 lives were saved last year alone.

Scott S. Coyne, M.D., Chief Surgeon/Medical Director, Suffolk County Police Department, said, “The Suffolk County Police Department has experienced unparalleled success with Pilot Project Intranasal Narcan Program, having administered Nasal Narcan almost 200 times resulting in successful reversals of life threatening opiate overdoses in 184 victims. The Community Overdose Prevention (COP) Program is a milestone initiative which will extend this critical tool throughout New York State as we continue to battle the opiate overdose epidemic.”

Angie Ruhry, parent of a son who was revived with Narcan, said, “In the midst of this epidemic that our country is living through it is so wonderful to know that we will all have easier access to the one powerful tool that can help to save lives: Narcan!”