By Brenda Flanagan
The red plastic box holds two doses of Narcan — a fast-acting antidote for heroin overdoses. A cop from Toms River watched it bring an addict back from the brink of death.
“He was unconscious, cold to the touch, not responsive. Pale, and purple lips,” said Officer Frank Moschella.
The patrolman shot a dose of Narcan up the victim’s nose and watched him start breathing again.
“Being able to sit up, responsive and able to communicate with us,” Moschella said.
Marlboro’s Police Chief Bruce Hall says the first time his officers used Narcan, “being able to send their first report off to the prosecutor’s office — ‘We got a save.’ And it’s a good feeling to walk home from, rather than having to go and make a notification to next of kin.”
Monmouth County’s prosecutor reports three lives saved by Narcan so far this year, Camden reports 16 and Ocean County — 41 people saved by police officers and EMTs trained to administer the antidote. That’s so many lives saved, says Gov. Chris Christie, who spoke today at Trenton’s Rescue Mission for recovering addicts.
“It means more than 40 individuals have hope. Means that 40 families got their children, their brothers, their sisters, their fathers or mothers back to them. If we have the ability to prevent this type of tragedy and help save lives, we need to be involved in doing it,” Christie said.
With that, the governor ordered the pilot program expanded to all 21 New Jersey counties and asked every county prosecutor to help implement the Narcan training sessions.
“It is now your responsibility to work with all of the respective chiefs of police and to push this issue down. It is this unwavering partnership that you will lead that will — in short — save lives,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.
Christie says the federal War on Drugs failed, miserably. He supports treatment, rather than prison, for non-violent victims of substance abuse. The non-profit Rescue Mission gives recovering addicts warm food, a clean bed, job training and counseling.
“I suffer from the disease of addiction for 20 years now,” said Daniel Watkins. “I’ve had experience. I’ve seen several people saved through Narcan. By no fault to anybody but their own they immediately returned back to use.”
Advocates say Narcan will give addicts another chance at life, but that it’s treatment programs like the one here at the Rescue Mission that will make that life so much more worth living.