East End law enforcement officers — often the first to arrive at the scene of a heroin overdose — will now be equipped with Narcan, a life saving drug.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Thursday announced the start of the Community Overdose Prevention program to enable law-enforcement officers within the state to carry naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan, which can instantly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Prior to the program, only the area’s ambulance corps carried the reversing medication.
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The announcement comes in the wake of a marked increase in heroin abuse and overdoses throughout Suffolk County, and follows the crackdown of two major heroin ring operations that reached the North Fork area.
The program will fund state and local officers with Narcan and train the officers to properly administer the life-saving drug, according to a release from Mr. Schneiderman’s office.
“As heroin use continues to rise, we need to engage in a multi-pronged approach to address the epidemic,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Last year alone, between our police personnel and our EMTs, Suffolk County administered Naloxone 594 times, saving the lives of those who would have otherwise overdosed.”
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said, “most of the time, we are first on the scene of a drug overdose. Having the ability now to possibly save that life is great.”
According to data released by Dr. Michael Lehrer, chief toxicologist with the ME’s office in February, heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County have increased by almost 300 percent in the past four years — from 28 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 and 83 in 2012, with about 82 deaths (and counting) reported in 2013. Not all drug-related cases from 2013 had been officially concluded at the time.
In January, state Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) introduced matching legislation that, if passed, would allow physicians to prescribe opioid antagonists like Narcan to individuals who know someone at risk.
This way, they say, family members, friends or others in a position to help someone who might overdose on an opioid can be prepared to intervene with life-saving treatment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved a prescription treatment making it easier for family or caregivers to save a person known or suspected to have had an opioid overdose on Thursday.
The drug, known by the brand name Evzio can rapidly deliver a single dose of the drug naloxone via a hand-held auto-injector that can be carried in a pocket or stored in a medicine chest, according to the FDA.