GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Increased heroin use means more people are dying from overdoses.
Grand Rapids Police Department administrators are considering arming officers with Narcan, which can save the life of someone who is overdosing if it is administered in time.
A community organization that provides the medication to drug users in West Michigan claims that within the last eight years, 288 people have reported “reversing” an overdose by using Narcan.
“That’s 288 lives potentially saved,” said Brandon Hull, director of overdose prevention for the Red Project.
Still, the Red Project, a community organization looking to promote progressive solutions to drug addiction and HIV, says there’s more to be done.
Kent County saw about 19 deaths from heroin in 2014, according to the most recent data available from the county medical examiner.
Narcan treats overdoses from any drug in the opioid class. That includes heroin and prescription medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. Hull said it is already used by emergency rooms and EMTs after the state mandated in 2014 that ambulances and fire department medical responders carry the life-saving drug.
GRPD Sgt. Terry Dixon says the department is seriously considering equipping officers with Narcan, but has not made a final determination.
Stephen Alsum, executive director for the Red Project, said the organization helps educate law enforcement agencies in northern and southwestern Michigan including police in Ludington, Kalamazoo County, Battle Creek, Cass County and elsewhere. Alsum says that while police often have initial reservations about using Narcan, they change their minds once they see lives saved.
“I’m very optimistic that this will soon be the standard of care for law enforcement across the state,” Alsum said.
Alsum said Narcan, also known as naloxone, is safe and effective and should be as readily available for people who use opioids — whether prescription or illicit — as EpiPens are for those susceptible to allergies.
“We want to start looking at these things more like EpiPens.” Alsum said. “Somebody has a severe allergic reaction, you’re going to make sure they have an EpiPen with them wherever they go. Naloxone is a much safer medicine than epinephrine.”