WASHINGTON CITY – The Washington City Police Department has become the first police agency in Southern Utah to add an opioid overdose-reversing drug to its arsenal of life-saving tools.
WCPD officers gathered for training July 13 on how to use naloxone, also known as Narcan, a drug that is able to nullify the temporarily effects of the opioid overdose, whether it be caused by heroin or an opiate-based medication.
As police officers are generally among the first to respond to the scene of a possible overdose, equipping them with the fast-acting medication – it takes affect with three minutes – can be the difference between a life saved or a call to the coroner.
“Every community has drug problems,” Washington City Police Chief Jim Keith said. “We have an opioid problem just like everywhere else does. So, yes, we come on overdose. Not on a regular basis, but we do. For me, if we save one life a year, that is one life we’ve saved. If we save 10, better.”
The Washington City Police Department reached out to the group Utah Naloxone for the training. The group advocates widespread awareness and use of the medication which is also touted as being non-addicting. The group has recently been in the news for using billboards to get its message out.
“The reality with naloxone is that it reverses an overdose of opiates,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, an emergency pediatrician at Intermountain Healthcare’s Primary Children’s Hospital. “And when you overdose on opiates, you stop breathing, or you’re breathing really slow.
“The first person that gets you breathing again is potentially going to make an enormous difference in the outcome for you,” Plumb said.
Plumb, along with her brother Sam Plumb, manage Utah Naloxone. As previously reported, they have personal reasons for promoting naloxone use – the loss of a brother to a heroin overdose in the mid-1990s.
“No other families should lose a loved one to a preventable death,” Plumb said.
Naloxone comes in either a syringe or a nasal spray, with officers employing the latter. The ease of use makes it “easy and simple” for law enforcement to employ, Plumb said.
Though the medication is fast-acting, its effects are also temporary – about 30-90 minutes. After that point a person could experience an overdose a second time if they have not received medical attention.
Getting the drug into the hands of law enforcement is a part of the “Opiate Overdose Response Act” passed in the Utah Legislature earlier this year.
Thus far there have been over 90 opioid overdose reversals in Utah by law enforcement, Plumb said.
The Police Department purchased 75 nasal spray kits – each costing $75 – for around $5,600.
“Seventy-five dollars is cheap when you figure we’re saving someone’s life,” Keith said.
The Washington City Police Department is the first law agency south of Price, Utah, to employ naloxone, Plumb said.
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