(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph Police Department will soon be able to provide emergency medical assistance to people who have overdosed on opioid painkillers. Thanks to a Missouri grant, police will now be outfitted with the emergency drug Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse the deadly effects of an opioid overdose.
Police said with the growing opioid epidemic growing nationwide, drug training is vital for the safety of citizens and patrol officers.
“Nationwide opioid overdoses are starting to rise. We’re starting to see some of the drugs here in town that are causing those issues, specifically, with our officers having to deal with those drugs and they can cause our officers to have an overdose. So, we wanted to look into not only to save their life, but to save a citizen’s life should they come across it as well,” Training Sergeant James Tonn said.
The overdose medication comes in a portable holster that will be carried by officers in the field to reverse damages to the central nervous system of a person who has overdosed.
“Narcan reverses the effects of that overdose. It helps you start breathing again and it blocks whatever opioids you have in your system all together. It lasts about an hour in your system, and that’s enough time for you to get the medical assistance you need,” Tonn said.
Over 130 officers in St. Joseph have gone through the training, and while opioid overdose training has only been an in-house practice for the department for the last two weeks, Tonn said it will eventually become a mandatory practice for patrol officers.
Tonn also mentioned the importance of teaching the public about drug awareness and the Good Samaritan law when dealing with opioid related incidents. The law provides protection for an individual who has been under the influence of drugs to call emergency services for another person who has overdosed without fear of being prosecuted for possessing a user amount of the illegal drug.
“I’ve gone to plenty of overdoses where someone could have called and they didn’t because they were afraid of going to jail,” Tonn said.
Officers said most pharmacies also carry Narcan as an over the counter medication for those who might need it in an emergency. Prolonged opioid use changes the chemistry of the brain, making the drug a highly addictive and deadly habit.
“For people that do use and opioid for an extended period of time, it does change their brain chemistry and eventually they will have to have it. We all have the feel-good drug Dopamine in our brain, and an opioid gives you an excess amount in your brain so eventually your brain stops making it all together,” Tonn said.
The department anticipates all patrol officers being able to carry Narcan in the field beginning in April.