As of two weeks ago, every patrol car in Salem County is now equipped with the overdose antidote Narcan.
The drug is able to reverse an overdose of opiate drugs, such as heroin, according to Chief of County Detectives Brian Facemyer, who said Salem County has had three confirmed overdose deaths so far this year.
No officer in the county has had to use the Narcan yet, but Facemyer said providing it to police is very important in a rural county like Salem where the police might be the first to arrive at a scene. Now they will be able to administer it without having to wait for an ambulance to get there.
The Narcan kits include a vial of the drug and a nasal injector that an officer would use to administer the antidote. The Salem County Prosecutor’s Office purchased the $37 kits with drug forfeiture funds and will continue to supply the kits to local police when they need to be replaced.
“Any time they are used, they need to be replaced,” Facemyer said. “They also last about 18 months… It’s a recurring cost but we’ll use more forfeiture funds to replace them.”
Narcan has been used by EMTs for years, said investigator Quenton Mulford, but kits like the ones just provided in the county make it easier for police to use it.
“Traditionally, Narcan has been a hard drug to administer,” Mulford said. “When you inject it, it hits people hard. They generally wake up violent or combative. Giving it intra-nasally is a softer application.”
When an officer needs to administer it, the Narcan vial is pushed into the injector, and then sprayed once into each nostril. The drug is absorbed through the nose’s mucus membrane and reverses an overdose much more gradually than the vein-injected version of the antidote, Mulford said.
“It makes it dummy proof, essentially,” he said.
Over the course of the last month, every officer in the county was trained on how to use Narcan, including how to determine the signs of an opiate overdose. Mulford said even if a person didn’t overdose, the Narcan won’t cause any harm.
“There’s no real side effect to this,” he said. “It’s like shooting water up someone’s nose who didn’t overdose.”
Over the past five years, Salem County has averaged 10 opiate-overdose deaths per year, according to Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan.
“By providing kits to the first responding police officers, it provides a life-saving opportunity prior to the arrival of emergency medical personnel that was not previously available,” he said.