Area police to receive Narcan for overdoses
ADDISON COUNTY — Middlebury police officers will soon be trained to administer Narcan to people they might encounter who are overdosing on opioids. Vergennes police are looking for resources to implement the same kind of program.
Emergency responders have successfully used Narcan to bring back, in some cases from the brink of death, folks suffering from the effects of a drug overdose.
Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley said he built his department’s most recent budget to include money to buy doses of Narcan, a drug used to revived a person who stops breathing due to overdoses of opioids such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, codeine and other prescription pain medications.
As it turns out, Hanley won’t have to dip into his department’s budget for its Narcan supplies. Middlebury police have been offered, at no cost, 24 units of Narcan from the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. Bristol physician Emily Glick — an Addison County leader in working with patients battling substance abuse — has provided the requisite signature for the Middlebury force to receive its Narcan.
“We will soon begin training our officers on how to use this,” Hanley said.
Bill Brim, director of the Turning Point Center of Addison County, has agreed to provide the training, according to Hanley.
The Turning Point Center in May of 2014 began offering free Narcan emergency kits to anyone seeking the product to assist a friend or loved one believed to be at risk of overdosing on opiates. Narcan, administered through a nasal atomizer syringe, cannot produce a high in the user and is only effective in treating an opiate overdose. It is also not harmful if it is mistakenly administered to someone who is not overdosing on an opiate.
Addison County’s was the first Turning Point Center in the state to pass out the free Narcan kits as part of a pilot program endorsed by Act 75 in 2013.
“This is an emergency situation,” Hanley said of the prevalence of opioids and the serious health issues that overdoses can produce. “Now we are in a position where we could render aid effectively until the ambulance can get (to the scene).”
In Vergennes, police Chief George Merkel has asked one of his officers with solid medical experience, Mark Barber, to investigate how his department might procure Narcan at a reduced price or at no cost, and then outline a program to train officers on how to administer the substance to overdose patients they might encounter during their patrols.
“We have been toying with this for a while,” Merkel said.
Ideally, the Vermont Department of Health should be providing Narcan to police departments at no cost, according to Merkel. If he can’t get free Narcan through the state, Merkel vowed to look for grants to help subsidize its purchase.
“It’s expensive, and has a shelf life,” Merkel said of Narcan.
Narcan has a shelf life of around two years.
He noted the availability of Narcan for someone experiencing a serious overdose reaction can make the difference between life and death. And Merkel said Narcan could prove invaluable in helping an officer or emergency responder who is inadvertently exposed to drugs like Fentanyl at a crime scene.
Merkel hopes his officers can be trained and equipped with Narcan by early this fall.
Bristol police have no immediate plans to carry Narcan, according to Chief Kevin Gibbs.
“I don’t see a need to equip our cruisers with it since we often arrive at medical calls at the same time or after the arrival of rescue,” he said in an emailed response for comment.
Addison County Sheriff Don Keeler said “the jury is still out” on whether his department might eventually carry and administer Narcan. He explained his officers primarily engage in traffic enforcement, rather than the more eclectic mix of duties in which municipal departments engage.
“I think the chances of us encountering someone in distress is probably less than someone responding to a call at a residence,” Keeler said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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