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Currier: State plan to have police carry heroin antidote will save lives

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MASSENA - The state is ramping up its efforts to curtail heroin overdose-related deaths by having police officers carry Narcan, an opioid antidote that reverses the effects of the narcotic drug in a matter of minutes.

“Heroin is destroying our communities, and it’s time we looked at broader solutions to fight back,” state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a news release Thursday announcing the Community Overdose Prevention program.

The state program will provide $5 million in funding to equip every state and local law-enforcement officer with naloxone, better known under the brand name Narcan, and train officers to administer the antidote properly.

Since October, the state had allowed certified Basic Life Support emergency medical service providers to carry and administer naloxone as long as responders received proper training, said Charles F. Brenon III, director of Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services.

“What Narcan does is it blocks the opiate receptors in the brain to reverse the effects of opioids like heroin,” Mr. Brenon said. “It’s fairly quick. It should take effect in three to five minutes.”

According to the attorney general’s office, the use of naloxone saved 563 lives in Suffolk County last year alone and the antidote has a “success rate” of more than 95 percent for the Quincy, Mass., Police Department.

Quincy police — the first department in the nation to require officers to carry naloxone — used the antidote 221 times since 2010 and successfully reversed 211 overdoses.

Massena Village Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said the community’s Massena Drug Free Coalition has long supported making Narcan more available for emergency situations.

“I think that Narcan is an excellent drug, and the use of it to prevent heroin deaths on our streets is a positive development. The Massena Drug Free Coalition has been working on this issue for some time. This news should be well-received by our committee,” he said.

Mr. Currier said his officers monitor rescue squad calls and have responded to heroin overdoses in the village.

“I think people would be surprised by how many opiate-related overdoses are occurring here,” Mr. Currier said.

Across the nation, fatal heroin overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that these numbers are still on the rise, the attorney general’s news release said.

“Opioid overdoses killed over 2,000 New Yorkers in 2011, more than double the number killed in 2004,” the release said.

Under the state’s new overdose prevention program, police officers will receive training to properly administer the antidote and be provided with a naloxone kit — which would contain two pre-filled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and an instruction booklet.

The cost of a naloxone kit is approximately $60 and the shelf life of each kit is two years. Mr. Currier said he currently has two kits in his office, a direct result of information he received at the drug coalition meetings.

“Our committee includes treatment providers, hospital representatives, school district officials and law enforcement personnel. It started out as as a prescription drug task force but we morphed from prescription drugs to the broader drug problem in the community - heroin, marijuana, underage drinking,” he said.

The village’s police chief said state initiatives in recent years, ranging from this latest development to the 911 Good Samaritan Law that provides protections for drug users summoning aid for someone suffering from an overdose, are beneficial. “It shows we want to stop needless heroin deaths,” he said.

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