Deputies equipped to handle overdoses

Most first-responders in Bartholomew County now are equipped to save lives in overdose situations.

The awarding of a $5,000 grant will provide all Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies with an antidote to reverse the lethal effects of an opiate overdose, Sheriff Matt Myers said.

The approval of the one-year grant by the Columbus Regional Health Foundation will allow each deputy to carry two doses of Narcan, the generic version of naloxone, at all times.

Columbus Regional Hospital will provide the easily administered nasal spray medication to the sheriff’s department at the hospital’s cost of $35 for two doses, foundation president Julie Abedian said.

The program is similar to the one approved early this year that allows 63 officers with the Columbus Police Department to carry the same dosage of Narcan at all times.

Two treatments may be needed by those suffering from the severe overdoses, the sheriff said.

While Narcan is carried on all ambulance runs, it is often law enforcement officers, rather than emergency medical technicians, who are the first on the scene of an overdose, Myers told the Bartholomew County Commissioners.

Although Myers’ request to pursue the grant was unanimously approved that day, commissioners chairman Larry Kleinhenz noted it was unusual for one county-owned entity to seek a grant from another.

That wasn’t the only thing about the request that was out of the ordinary, Abedian said.

“CRH Foundation rarely funds first-responder equipment requests, but this project was unique in several ways,” Median said. “It was initiated by a CRH physician who trained sheriff and police department officers to administer the drug.”

Abedian was referring to emergency specialist Dr. Christopher Schneider.

“We’re blessed to have proactive law enforcement willing to quickly accept new ideas, make this happen and save lives,” Schneider said.

“When you have 19 deaths (combined total for 2013 and 2014) with heroin, and you have a drug that can buy time, it only makes sense for law enforcement to carry this,” Myers said.

The grant is for one year, but Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher would like to see deputies equipped with Narcan for the long term.

“The initial startup costs are the biggest factor, and keeping the program going after that doesn’t cost much,” Fisher said.

Schneider said he doesn’t see any reason why the Hope Police Department as well as town marshals in small local communities can’t be trained and provided the drug.

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The nasal spray form of naloxone (Narcan), which treats potentially fatal overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids, was developed by pharmacy professor Dr. Daniel Wermeling of the University of Kentucky.

At a news conference last summer, Wermeling honed in on the fact that tougher prescription drug laws have led to more addicts turning to heroin and other opioids.

Because heroin is traditionally administered with needles, he speculated that the rate of HIV/AIDS will increase as a result of needle sharing, Wermerling said. 

In development since 2009, Wermeling’s intranasal naloxone treatment received fast-track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Medical experts have long stressed that it is important to give help to an overdosing person right away. Brain damage can occur within only a few minutes of an opioid overdose as the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain.

“The goal is to make the medication available to patients at high risk of opioid overdose and to caregivers, including family members, who may lack specialized medical training,” Wermeling said.

Source: Pharmacy Times