Brandon chief addresses critics after drug incident sparks social-media firestorm
BRANDON — Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell has taken the local online community to task following an opiate overdose in the police station parking lot on July 10.
Brickell chronicled the entire incident on the department’s Facebook page on July 11.
“Yesterday, July 10, at about 3:30 p.m., we witnessed a second chance at life, and a wasted opportunity within a short period of time,” Brickell wrote.
The chief reported that a car drove into the Brandon Police Department parking lot at that time and the frantic female driver told police she had someone in her car who was overdosing. The male victim, 26, was found slumped over in the passenger seat.
“His lips were blue,” Brickell said. “He groaned once and stopped breathing.”
Brandon police administered one dose of Narcan, but the man was unresponsive. A second dose of Narcan was administered, again with no results.
Narcan is the brand name for Naloxone, a drug used by first responders and emergency personnel that blocks the effects of opioids, particularly in the midst of an overdose.
“After retrieving another dose of Narcan, a third dose was administered,” Brickell said. “Shortly after the third dose, the victim took a deep breath, began labored breathing, and finally opened his eyes.”
Brickell reported that the woman who drove the victim to the station said she did not witness him taking any drugs, but that shortly after coming out of a bathroom at a local convenience store, he became unresponsive in her car. She also stated that she hit him several times to try to wake him, and threw her drink on him while trying to dial 911, but that her phone would not connect. She decided to drive to the police station for help.
“In this case, a very wise choice,” Brickell said.
The Brandon Area Rescue Squad arrived shortly thereafter to assess and treat the male patient. A second crew from rescue also came to assist with the treatment, but the man did not want help.
“To our disbelief, after having vitals taken, the patient signed a refusal to be treated against the recommendations of rescue personnel, police, and the friend who drove him to the police station,” Brickell said. “Even after assuring him that he was not in legal trouble, he did not admit to using anything other than marijuana, however he admitted to being a former user of heroin.”
But the story doesn’t end there.
Once Brickell posted the incident on the Brandon Police Department Facebook page, comments from community members started pouring in. They were not all kind, or supportive. While many people praised the Brandon police for saving a life, others were not so charitable. Many of the most egregious comments were deleted by the department.
Initially, a body cam photo of the man was also posted, but later taken down, a move that also bothered some people.
“It’s to bad you all chose to take the photo down maybe if we didn’t keep taking down the images people would start personalizing the issue…”
“Diabetes, etc. are also illnesses of precious lives, yet some who suffer can’t afford the medication they need to survive too. It’s a shame that some people die because they can’t afford meds yet an addict can pretty much kill themselves and be brought back at tax payers expense. Don’t misunderstand me. I have dealt with demons too…”
“My problem is after they are revived there needs to be consequences such as reimbursement for the Narcan and a mandatory diversion program to rehab or something like we have for underage drinkers. Just to go free is not a cure for their bad decisions. After all it is ILLEGAL.”
But Brickell did take down the photo, and addressed the Facebook thread.
“We did not identify the victim, nor will we, but felt (the photo) was an important image for those who do not understand the impacts of addiction,” he wrote. “While we received comments both positive and negative, it is the truth. This is real life. Shying away from it does not make it go away. If you bothered to take the time to comment on our post, you should take the time to do something to change this problem. We are painfully aware of the issues drug addiction creates. While many people were supportive and offered ways to get help, it was discouraging to see so many posters laying blame, using derogatory language towards each other. Calling people out and wishing people ill will from a keyboard. None of that activity is positive, nor does it help resolve the problem. While we want to respect people’s opinions and thoughts, this is our page and we will not allow damaging hurtful comments to continue.
“The Brandon Police Department will continue to use Narcan, and assist those people facing addiction to reach recovery, which is our ultimate goal. We encourage those seeking help for many issues to check vermont211.org, which has many service organizations for help with not just addiction but other issues. We ask all of you to take a breath, think before you respond. Opiate addiction ruins lives. Let’s not add to that destruction.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
In the end, the man who overdosed left the scene without allowing anyone to help him once he was brought back to life. The incident clearly shook up the entire police department, including Brickell. The chief added another post to the Facebook thread titled, “What does it take?”
“Afterwards, as rescue pulled out of our parking lot, and the patient drove away with his friend, we asked ourselves, ‘What does it take?’” Brickell wrote. “Had your friend not brought you to the police station, you could have died. Had we not had three doses of Narcan at the police station, you could have died. Even though rescue was there to help and transport you to the hospital, you refused, even knowing the Narcan would wear off at some point, and whatever you had taken was still in your system. So, what does it take?
“Was this episode in your life not enough to scare you into seeking help? Is this not a wake up call for you to seek help? Is getting high so powerful that you would risk your life even after being saved? Do you have parents, family that you care about? We wish we had the answers to these questions.”
In closing, Brickell thanked the Brandon Area Rescue Squad, adding that Brandon police will continue to carry Narcan, now more than ever.
“We will always do whatever we can to help those facing addiction issues,” he wrote. “Just remember, we may not always be in the right place at the right time. Fortunately, yesterday, we were.”
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