By Leo Beletsky, Elena Moroz
In our last entry, we talked about the innovative police program in Massachusettswho have successfully implemented the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. This program is one of the first among a growing number of police departments that are responding to the overdose epidemic in their communities by undergoing training on overdose prevention.
One the newest of these initiatives is a collaboration between The New York Department of Health and law enforcement in the rural Rensselaer County in upstate New York.
As we have previously discussed, police officers are often the first on the scene of an overdose and can provide critical response to avert death or brain injury resulting from these events. The pilot program in the rural Rensselaer County is particularly well placed because overdose victims here will often find themselves far from any ambulance or hospital. To date, this pilot is the first in New York State where police are trained to use naloxone. Other rural counties should follow suit and implement naloxone programs among first-responders.
Naloxone has been successfully used to save overdose victims by health professionals since the 1970’s, but it is only now beginning to be slowly introduced to first responders. In New York State overdose deaths have increased by more than 60% over the past 10 years; this cause of death now outranks car accidents in the state.
The Rensselaer County Sheriffs have expressed enthusiasm about the program, stating that the ability to help victims is “priceless.” New York State passed a law in 2006 allowing non-health professionals to administer naloxone. This legislation has facilitated the distribution of naloxone to first responders and has empowered them save lives.