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Ocean County Police Officers Train With Heroin 'Antidote' Drug

Narcan can save lives, but is just one tool in heroin fight, prosecutor says

A Narcan nasal spray dispenser being demonstrated at the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, Toms River, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A Narcan nasal spray dispenser being demonstrated at the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, Toms River, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Brick Police Sgt. Mike Drew is one of many police officers in Ocean County who has been tasked with the responsibility of leading his department's use of Narcan, a nasal spray that can temporarily reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose.

Officers from around Ocean County trained this week in the use of the drug, also called Naxolone, that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives when used by first responders in other states. The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is leading a pilot program to have the drug carried by police officers and others in the Garden State.

"We do have, obviously, a pretty big heroin problem," said Drew. "So this will definitely help the officers. It’s now just a matter of getting it on the road."

The Brick department is one of 31 departments – out of 32 countywide – that are participating in the Narcan pilot. Friday morning's training session at the office of the county prosecutor was one of two held this week to formally introduce the program.

In Ocean County, the training and the Narcan supplies are being paid for by money seized from drug dealers.

Window of Opportunity

Narcan doesn't guarantee that a person who overdoses on heroin will be saved, said training coodinator Dr. Kenneth Lavelle, though it presents first responders with a window of opportunity to reverse the heart-slowing effects of opium – whether it is heroin or a prescription pill overdose – and get a victim to the hospital for further treatment.

"If the patient is already in cadiac arrest, if their heart has already stopped, Narcan won't help at all," Lavelle said. "But what would help, is if they've stopped breathing, a first responder can breathe for them, and this would help them to breathe again on their own."

"This is most useful when someone has injected so much [heroin] that they've stopped breathing, and they've got a couple minutes before brain cells die," he said. "That would be when somebody finds them turning blue, or when their breathing stops."

Narcan, essentially, gives first responders – or even family members of addicts who are trained in the administration of the drug – a window to help, said Lavelle.

Laws Catching Up to Reality

The pilot program in Ocean County comes nearly a year after Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the Overdose Prevention Act, a measure that made it legal for both police officers and family members of addicts to carry Narcan. The law also bestows legal immunity upon police officers and ordinary citizens who try to use the drug to help an overdose victim.

The law, and the pilot program, come as drug overdose deaths – primarily attributed to heroin – doubled in a year's time in Ocean County between 2012 and 2013. So far in 2014, the death toll is keeping up with the previous year's numbers, officials have said.

"There's no liability that comes to the police officer," said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato. "It's right in the statute."

Certain aspects of Narcan's legality still need to be worked out, however. As it currently stands, members of EMS squads cannot administer Narcan, and many physicians are reluctant to prescribe it to family members or friends of addicts citing liability concerns.

Coronato said he received a waiver for Ocean County police officers who are also volunteer EMTs in their spare time, enabling them to dispense the drug while they are working as police officers. He is also working with state health agencies in hopes of creating training courses that can be completed by family members of addicts in order to ease physicians' concerns about writing prescriptions for the drug.

"If you look in Quincy, Massachusetts, they've already saved more than 100 lives with this," said Coronato. "What we're really trying to save lives and trying to make a difference."
ThudNJ February 28, 2014 at 06:12 PM
With the police being guaranteed no liability issues it just makes sense to train and equip them all. Training has to be less than other drugs that are administered via a needle. Also I believe most respirators in police cars can force breath for patients and the cop does not need to do mouth to mouth.
Fawkes February 28, 2014 at 07:31 PM
Man, this topic really draws out all the trolls.
Dale Doback February 28, 2014 at 08:45 PM
I find it disturbing that in NJ a police officer cannot give an epi-pen to a child going into shock from an allergic reaction to a bee sting, and cannot assist someone having an asthma attack with using their own inhaler, but can administer a drug to an addict who has overdosed as a result of their own bad choices.
Clementine Snide February 28, 2014 at 08:51 PM
The officers that are being trained for this are EMTs "in their spare time"... so there is a crossover there. Seems logical that they should be able to administer epi-pens and assist with inhalers, as well though.
John Cobb March 01, 2014 at 04:59 AM
It will be interesting to see the statistics when this Narcan has been in use for awhile. It would be good if they developed somethig called Narcant which the addict could take or be given and would prevent them from using in the first place.
Ryan Hardy March 01, 2014 at 06:50 AM
This will do nothing. Just legalize heroin, marijuana and anything else. Darwin's laws of Natural Selection are all the laws we need, we'll be better off weeding out the addicts from the gene pool anyway. Overpopulation is no joke.
Eric Thomas March 01, 2014 at 07:18 AM
WHY??? Let these criminals die if they overdose. Spend on those of us who have the integrity to live our lives within the law. I don't give a damn how harsh I sound, I have no pity for the Phillip Seymour Hoffmans of this world.
WhyohWhy March 01, 2014 at 07:54 AM
Lets see how quick you are to cry that tune when its your son or daughter laying on the ground OD'd from Heroin. This drug DOES NOT discriminate... it effects everyone and anyone with a slight weakness. Be careful what you wish for Eric Thomas.
Clementine Snide March 01, 2014 at 08:08 AM
@John Cobb: There IS an opiate blocker that addicts can get. It works similarly to antebuse for alcohol except it doesn't make the patient ill. Unfortunately, it's used much the way antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds are, in terms that the medication only addresses the symptoms, not the disease. An addict needs to learn how to deal with life as it comes along, many times what you see in an addict is someone woefully lacking in life skills. These are usually the types of skills people develop along the way, but for whatever reason, addicts generally don't develop these skills fully. So it's a little like asking someone to build a house when all they have in their toolbox is a screwdriver and a hammer. The opiate inhibitor Vivitrol is a great, GREAT start... but, going back to the carpentry analogy, it's like handing someone blueprints and tools and saying, "Build me a house!" They have no idea where to start. They need to be shown. Sort of like apprenticing. That's what treatment is for. Otherwise, it becomes so overwhelming that failure is imminent. Should Vivatrol be used IN CONJUNCTION with treatment? I say Absolutely! It would give recovering opiate addicts a much firmer base from which to operate. Most doctors/clinics use Vivatrol singularly, with nothing to address the life skills portion of the disease. The thinking, actions and moods of the addict don't get addressed. Thus, my belief for the use of Narcan is the same: if a patient has been administered Narcan, they should automatically be placed in a hospital for evaluation, then on to a rehab. In the event they've been involved in the courts/have a legal history, there should be a jail/rehab setting, more like a work-camp program. Long term. True rebailitation in terms of addressing the vocational, legal, social and familial issues. Make the recovering addict work off any debts. Make them work for the roof over their heads and the food on the table. Make them pay restitution. Help them get clean and sober. Teach them to respect themselves and feel productive and worthy. Those that fail in such a program can go to jail and be penalized. Jail isn't a place to get clean and so ER, though. And it takesc more than ten days. More than 30 days. It can take years to UN/re-learn behaviors. Jail won't do it. A cushy rehabilitation center won't do it. ::stepping down off my soapbox::
John Cobb March 01, 2014 at 08:29 AM
@ Clementine Snide, thank you for your very informative response.
Melanie Holsten March 01, 2014 at 08:42 AM
It really amazes me how IGNORANT people are! Clementine your right....10..30 day rehabs and jails don't work and it is a Disease! And they aren't junkies either. This gets me sooo pissed! Addicts come from all walks of life..educated and not! Most of these people have made the wrong choices and have been pulled into a life that they have no control over because now they are addicted so its a vicious cycle they don't know how to break! Its heartbreaking for someone who isn't an addict to understand! So I suggest negative and nasty comments should be kept to yourselves because you have no clue! So unless you have experienced it first hand or had or have a family member keep your mouth shut! You never know what can happen in your own backyard! So don't judge!
Proud Pappa March 01, 2014 at 10:05 AM
Why not cross train the officers for the EPI-PEN and help someone who chooses not to take a chance on death by injecting poison into their veins..... and id love to know the only Police Dept who does not want to do this!!!!..they know something the others don't..
A Resident March 01, 2014 at 10:38 AM
Here's the real rub... "As it currently stands, members of EMS squads cannot administer Narcan, and many physicians are reluctant to prescribe it to family members or friends of addicts citing liability concerns. Coronato said he received a waiver for Ocean County police officers who are also volunteer EMTs in their spare time, enabling them to dispense the drug while they are working as police officers." EMT's can't provide it, but LEO's that are EMT's can. Does having a gun mean you are better qualified to administer this stuff?
Melanie Holsten March 01, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Halpa I myself am not an addict!! And it makes me angry with people like you that I should direct my comments amongst addicts? No, I am just trying to educate people like yourself who make comments basically since jails are full let them die! That they are a waste...wake up! Get your head out of the sand and face reality. I am glad you live in a perfect world. So I suggest you educate yourself more before you make stupid statements!
Fawkes March 01, 2014 at 11:07 AM
Halpha2, You're a despicable human being. Really contemptible.
Clementine Snide March 01, 2014 at 11:50 AM
ahhhh, Melanie... why get into a pissing contest with a skunk? Those who want to learn, shall. Keep talking. Ignore the insults. They only divert the attention.
tr March 01, 2014 at 01:46 PM
I have been saying for years now, that the United States should bring back the "Conservation Corps" system of the 1930's. Middlesex County already has started up a Conservation Corp for misguided young adults needing to repay society for poor lifestyle choices. Why not Ocean County? Why not use the old barracks at the Forked River Game Farm? Why not let them do beach erosion remediation work with picks and shovels and brooms and mops? Feed them and water them if they work, if not, solitary confinement in Hooper Hotel! Their choice. Not "job Corps", that was a failure. They were treated tooo well. I am talking pre WWII CC's. Denim uniforms and all. Tent living in unpopulated areas. Ex military and law enforcement as counselors. And please NO ACLU lawyers! Nice does not beat addiction, tough does.
Clementine Snide March 01, 2014 at 03:07 PM
Sort of like that, tr. I don't object to hard physical labor, but perhaps that would be one phase of the process. I'd like to see a wraparound type deal, though. Add education and working through a 12step program (long term residential)... Vocational training. Shadowing. Maybe the harder core chain-gang type stuff for the first two or three months. School at night. Once they reach a certain point in their education AND recovery work, connect them with local businesses for apprenticeships/shadowing. The residents would have to work for their keep. Be drug screened. Attend meetings. Secure sponsors. Learn to socialize without drugs (including alcohol). Make amends and restitution. Keep residents for a year or longer. None of this 30 days crap. And since they're working to stay, it becomes at least quasi-self sufficient. No insurance needed. Staff is paid via the county, state or Feds... take money from the inefficient prison system that's currently turnstyling these repeat drug offenders. Get them working, with a sense of knowledge and pride instead of processing them to county for thirty days where they sit and make pals with different sorts of criminals. They already know what they CAN'T do. Why not teach them what they CAN do?
Melanie Holsten March 01, 2014 at 09:06 PM
Clementine your are so right on! I have witnessed the repeated rehab stints...county jail and it doesn't work, The system needs to get to the root of the problem of why drug use has started. Putting them into rehabs or jail and not teaching them life skills and how to function in society...and have them learn a trade will enable them to hopefully be independent and a law abiding citizen. You can't have someone in rehab or jail and once their time is up they get throw on the streets and expect them to instantly have a job....to be able to survive...most addicts are lost souls...that made wrong choices.
John Cobb March 02, 2014 at 12:47 PM
You are all coming up with good suggestions for rehabbing and socializing these addicts. I believe the state of the economy and lack of job opportunities may inhibit some of that progress. As we regress further back into third world status maybe the establishment of work camps and gulags might not be such a bad idea. As do your hard labor everyday for your ration of rice & fish, thoughts of booting dope will soon fade.
Fawkes March 02, 2014 at 03:44 PM
Cobb Salad, And just as I was beginning to think you were capable of logic and reason.
John Cobb March 02, 2014 at 05:46 PM
Fawkes the troll, always ready to respond and criticize, yet you offer little solution to the problem yourself. Coddling the offenders doesn't seem to work, maybe my idea has more merit than you think.
Fawkes March 02, 2014 at 07:21 PM
I've tried to debate this subject with you lunatics, but it's a pointless exercise. It always goes through one ear, rattles through your empty heads and goes flying out the other.
Anthony March 02, 2014 at 11:44 PM
I fail to see anything negative about this. If you're thinking it's just going to be a "safety net" so addicts can do more drugs, you're wrong. Research studies have investigated this common concern and found that making naloxone available does NOT encourage people to use opiates more. The goal of distributing naloxone and educating people about how to prevent, recognize and intervene in overdoses is to prevent deaths. Other goals, such as decreasing drug use, can only be accomplished if the user is alive.
Anthony March 02, 2014 at 11:51 PM
"Putting them into rehabs or jail and not teaching them life skills and how to function in society" That's exactly what rehabs teach you. What do you think they do in there for 28 days? It's 16 hours a day of AA/NA meetings, relapse prevention, chores, counseling, therapy, etc...
Anthony March 03, 2014 at 12:02 AM
" A cushy rehabilitation center won't do it. " I've been there twice. There's nothing cushy about it. Rehabs aren't what you see or here about celebrities going to. Those are the exception, not the rule. The truth is a trip to rehab sucks. Especially if you wind up in a Therapeutic Community or Salvation Army. If 30 days isn't enough, long term programs exist. The guys in Discovery House are there for 6+ months. The rehabilitation doesn't end when you walk out of the facility. AA/NA, IOP, halfway houses, three quarter houses, etc... all exist for this reason
Clementine Snide March 03, 2014 at 07:36 AM
@Anthony writes: "I fail to see anything negative about this. If you're thinking it's just going to be a "safety net" so addicts can do more drugs, you're wrong. Research studies have investigated this common concern and found that making naloxone available does NOT encourage people to use opiates more. The goal of distributing naloxone and educating people about how to prevent, recognize and intervene in overdoses is to prevent deaths. Other goals, such as decreasing drug use, can only be accomplished if the user is alive." I love this statement! But here's the inherent problem: Narcan is often given to an overdose case with no follow up care in terms of rehab stay. And THAT is where the failure lies. Treating the symptom, and not the disease. The fact that family members are trained to administer Narcan scares me to death. So the addict ODs. Mom (or whoever) administers Narcan, there is an ensuing crisis and maybe there's an agreement to go to rehab. But it is more often than not followed through. Once a crisis is averted, things go back to the status quo. It's terrifying. If it were insulin shock or anaphylaxis, you can bet the family would call 911 or get the person to the ER. But as long as people roll their eyes and say stupid stuff like "what a waste" or "it's just another junkie overdosing" and TREAT addicts like second class people who choose to live under the immense shadow of addiction (because, let's face it, the "choice" was removed long ago), addicts will continue to die out of shame. All just my humble opinion, I know. But I like what you said very much, Anthony. Thank you.
Clementine Snide March 03, 2014 at 07:43 AM
I was actually referring to something more like a TC, but maybe "more", @Anthony. And the Salvation Army is a cracker-jack outfit that actually works well because it's a no-frills situation. I especially object to those day-spa rehabs to which you refer. But I think we might be talking at cross purposes here, as well. I'm specifically talking about the addicts who are *consistent* guests of the jails, who are arrested on drug-related charges again and again, not those who seek help of their own volition (or even with the court's initial intervention). The self-motivated aren't the targets of my discussion. It's the addicts who go to rehab and play the game, get out, give 1/2 measures to get off probation, holding onto their reservations the whole time. I know what's out there and what's not. I also know that sending an addict back to "people, places and things" too soon is an unfortunate side effect of managed health insurance. 28 days just isn't enough to do anything deeply lasting, IMO. Many moons ago, a 6 month stay in a rehab was easily within anyone's reach. And the difference it made was amazing, as I'm sure you can understand. Half-way houses were abundant, PHP and IOP were aftercare for those who were just released. You didn't have to "fail outpatient" first to go to rehab (and I've personally known 2 addicts who died doing just that), and you didn't have to "be high" at the time of intake to stay. Discovery House is a wonderful institution! Been around forever! and there's a reason for it. They have a good grasp on the balance of discipline. I certainly did not mean to dismiss the awesome works of rehabs... or RECOVEREES... more power to you for walking the walk!! You should be proud of yourself! I have one family member in IOP, by choice, and doing well. I would never underrate the success there. On the other hand, I have another family member who's been in and out of the legal AND rehab scene for the better part of twenty years, and could use a work-camp setting. of course, there ARE those who are "constitutionally unable" to maintain sobriety. So, I'm fully apologetic to you Anthony, and any one else to whom I wasn't clear. I'm all for those who can and do manage their addiction! ODAAT.
Kennard Willis March 10, 2014 at 10:06 PM
First of all this is not causing taxes to go up the drug is less than 2.00$ per dose. Since when is one life more valuable then another Mr tr
tr March 10, 2014 at 11:45 PM
@Kennard Willis $2.00 per dose is paid by tax dollars. The training of the officers is paid by tax dollars. The decisions of our police officers, if incorrect, is paid by tax dollars. What world do you live in? You be lookin at this wrong, man! Get your mind right. Where you be at on this? Did you vote for the current President? If so that explains it.

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