By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — With the influx of heroin reaching alarming proportions within the city, the local police department announced it has begun the process that will allow them to carry Narcan, the anti-opiate overdose drug also known as naloxone, in their cruisers.
Amesbury police Lt. William Scholtz said the decision was made based on a recent change in the Department of Health’s regulations, which encourages all first responders to have access to the life-saving drug. Also playing a part was Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent declaration of a “heroin emergency” within the state.
As part of the process, which is expected to be completed sometime this summer, police reached out to Amesbury emergency medical technicians who are already equipped with Narcan.
The local first responder project will be overseen by the Amesbury Fire Department, which is the lead agency responsible for EMS for the city. Amesbury works closely with Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, which has the medical oversight and medical authorization for the city, according to local fire officials.
Already, the Department of Public Health and Amesbury’s medical director have put together several safeguards to ensure the proper use of and treatment with Narcan. The use of Narcan, as with all medication, will need to follow all the same rules that are in place in Amesbury Fire Department’s Advanced Life Support program to keep the public safe, according to Amesbury fire Deputy Chief David Mather.
Local police will join Newburyport police in area departments that carry Narcan. Last month, Newburyport police Marshal Thomas Howard announced that every officer in his department recently became certified to administer the drug, paving the way for their addition into each cruiser’s defibrillator kit. Now should police arrive first at an overdose call, they won’t have to wait until an ambulance crew arrives, which will shave off precious seconds or minutes and save lives.
Amesbury and Newburyport police join an ever-growing club of area departments that have decided to carry Narcan, which is typically administered nasally, in their cruisers. Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said recently he has decided not to follow the lead of the two department at this time.
Across the state and nationally, a spike in the number of opiate-induced overdoses has changed the discussion on whether the drug should be made available not only to police departments, but also to firefighters and private citizens. Over the last five months alone, several hundred people have died of drug overdoses across the state.
Mather said part of the training will be to ensure that the drug is never left in a non-climate-controlled environment, as sub-zero temperatures will allow the drug to freeze and intense heat will cause the drug to lose its potency. The deputy chief said he expected the certification process to be seamless, considering local police already work with EMTs on a daily basis and have already seen Narcan administered successfully.
“They should be able to pick up on this very quickly,” Mather said.
But Mather said administering Narcan is only part of the life-saving process. Almost as critical is proper ventilation as well as being 100 percent sure the victim is suffering an opiate overdose. Officers undergoing certification will learn those critical components as well.
“Narcan is a great tool, but it’s only part of the puzzle,” Mather said.
Scholtz said two officers will be certified as instructors, who will then be able to train the remaining officers within the department.