By Lauren Wanko
Ocean County police officers learned how to administer the medication Narcan to temporarily reverse the effects of a narcotic overdose.
“Standing there doing first aid, waiting for the ambulance and paramedics to arrive seems like forever. Now having this in our first aid kits will hopefully make a big difference,” said Ocean Township Police Sgt. Dennis Jarin.
Ocean County police officers would be the first law enforcement personnel in the state to carry and administer the medication. Civilians can administrator Narcan after they get a prescription and training. And police departments in other states have equipped their officers with the medication. It’s given in a nasal spray — one squirt in each nostril.
“Ideally in two to three minutes the patient may be able to breathe on their own and possibly wake up before the ambulance even arrives,” said Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Medical Advisor Dr. Ken Lavelle.
There were 112 drug overdose fatalities in Ocean County in 2013 and 13 so far this year. Ten of those deaths were heroin related overdoses.
“Prescription drug abuse is fueling the heroin epidemic in the state. We unfortunately have one of the highest purities of street level heroin in the country because we are a direct importation state, meaning it comes out overseas here and there’s a demand,” said Douglas Collier.
And the drug is cheap — as little as $5 a hit. Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato says the Narcan pilot program is voluntary, but every police chief in the county has signed up for the training courses.
“The first person on the scene is usually a police officer so now we’re gonna give them the tools to possibly save someone’s life when they’re possibly suffering from an overdose and possibly dying from an overdose,” Coronato said.
Officers will carry the Narcan kits in their cars. They cost about $25 each. The program is funded by drug dealers.
“We’re using the forfeiture money, we’re not using taxpaying dollars. We’re using drug dealers’ money we’ve seized and this is the right thing to do with it,” said Coronato.
Sgt. Jarin is grateful for this morning’s training session. Last year he responded to two heroin overdose calls.
“It’s even more disheartening to see the family members standing there looking at you, hoping the victim with be revived immediately,” Jarin said.
The law enforcement officers who trained here today will head back to their departments and train their fellow officers. Prosecutor Coronato expects the Narcan kits to be available in the field within the next two to three weeks.