PORTAGE | Portage police officers will be adding another tool to their arsenal.
They soon will be carrying naloxone, a drug known to instantly counteract the affects of opioid overdoses.
"Porter County has one of the highest heroin overdose death rates in the country. If there is anything we can do to save a life, we want to do that," Police Chief Troy Williams said.
While emergency medical services have been carrying the drug for decades, it was only recent legislation that is allowing Indiana police officers to carry naloxone, Williams said.
Once Williams heard Indiana was passing such a law, he said he sought the help of Portage Fire Chief Tom Fieffer, Assistant Chief Dan Kodicek and Porter Regional Hospital EMS Medical Director Dave Cummins to put together kits and protocol for police use.
Portage police will be the first in Porter County and the region to carry the kits. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police recently began a pilot program and it was announced Tuesday that New York City police would begin carrying naloxone.
Williams said often police arrive at a scene before fire and EMS personnel in a situation where seconds and minutes can determine not only life or death, but the quality of life of someone suffering with an opioid overdose.
"Each minute a person is not breathing, more brain tissue is dying," Cummins said.
Cummins said while the drug, also referred to by the brand name Narcan, is most readily known for reversing the effects of heroin or methadone overdoses, it also can be effective treatment for overdoses of opioid prescription drugs from oxycodone to Vicodin and Tramadol.
Abuse of prescription drugs, often stolen from medicine cabinets, police said, is more prevalent in the county than heroin abuse and has an overdose potential for users.
Each kit, which costs about $35, contains a vial of naloxone and an attachment that will allow police to give it intranasally, which is the most effective way to give the drug, Cummins said. The drug itself costs $20 per dose.
Cummins said there is no harm if the drug is given to someone not suffering an overdose.
Williams said 14 supervisors will be trained initially in administering the drug with the goal to have every officer undergo training and have access to a kit during his or her shift. The shelf life of the kits is about two years.
"I'm excited to be able to offer the ability of our officers to help someone in an overdose emergency," Williams said.