Statesboro police officers will now carry the opioid-blocking drug naloxone in a nasal spray to administer to people who overdose on opioids such as heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl.
One shift of the Statesboro Police Department’s officers completed a brief training session Thursday afternoon on how to handle the potentially lifesaving antidote, and the rest are scheduled for sessions Friday and Saturday. The department purchased 76 naloxone kits with a $2,850 grant from the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation at no cost to the city.
The department will be the 107th law enforcement agency in Georgia to start carrying naloxone, SPD Chief Mike Broadhead told City Council earlier this week.
“The wonderful thing about this drug is that when people are suffering from opioid-based overdoses, and that includes heroin and fentanyl and oxycodone, which are all becoming very popular drugs of abuse, it can immediately counter the effects of those drugs and literally save people’s lives,” Broadhead said.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, is also available in injectable forms, but the nasal spray has been widely promoted for emergency use by law enforcement officers in response to a national epidemic of opioid abuse.
Broadhead said the drug is very safe to administer in this form because officers will not have to use auto-interjectors or handle needles. It will be used when officers find or are dispatched to where someone is suspected of being “in the immediate throes of dying from an opioid overdose,” he said.
The antidote drug, he said, has no effect on people who are not suffering from an opioid overdose. It potentially could also be used to protect officers who are exposed to opioid drugs because some can be absorbed through the skin, he added.
Opioid deaths here
“I think people would be surprised, but we have had overdoses of opioids here, just fairly recently,” Mayor Jan Moore commented.
Three fatal opioid overdoses have been reported in Statesboro this year, two of them in the past three months.
“We suspect that those are fentanyl-laced. Fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug,” Broadhead said.
In the most recent fatal incident, in early June, “an individual in our community had imported a bunch of raw material, we think from the Far East, which is still at the lab being tested, but it was clearly an opioid-based substance,” the police chief told City Council.
The man who died had a pill-making device and was crushing the raw material into pill form for sale when he ingested some of the drug and died, Broadhead said.
Police did not arrive on the scene in time to have saved any of the three recent overdose victims with naloxone, he said.
“But the potential obviously is there,” he said, adding that naloxone was previously reserved for use by Emergency Medical Service personnel but that police sometimes arrive first.
As officers heard in Thursday afternoon’s training session conducted by Statesboro police Sgt. Andrew Samples, a state law shields first-responders who administer the drug in a good-faith effort to help someone. They also heard that they should complete a Project DAN report anytime a kit is used, as well as note its use in their incident report, and turn over any empty kits to medical personnel when they arrive on the scene.
DAN stands for “Deaths Avoided by Naloxone.” Through Project DAN, the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation has provided grants for Narcan nasal spray kits to 80 agencies in the state, said Fred Jones, a foundation staff director who works with the project. Almost all are police and sheriffs’ departments, but two or three fire departments have also received grants, he said.
The foundation, whose board is made up of physicians, launched Project DAN in 2015 as an offshoot of the organization’s “Think About It” Campaign to combat prescription drug abuse. Project DAN has put almost 4,600 doses of the nasal spray into the hands of first-responders, and the reports filed when kits are used help track the number of lives saved, Jones said.
“I think there are probably more uses out there that we don’t know about, but I can tell you we do know that at least 52 lives have been saved in Georgia through the use of the Narcan nasal spray that was acquired through one of our grants,” Jones said on Thursday.
So far, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office has not joined the increasing number of police agencies equipped with naloxone. But the department’s leadership is looking into it.
“Not yet, but we’re going to start looking into how we can get that for our people also,” said Sheriff’s Office Capt. Todd Hutchens.
Police dogs often are the first to find illegal drugs, especially during vehicle searches. So the Sheriff’s Office already has a supply of a veterinary form of naloxone to protect its K9 officers in case they ingest or inhale opioids, Hutchens said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.