Local deputies now equipped with opioid overdose antidote

Deputies Michael Miller, left, and Tom Drake, right, teach fellow deputies how to administer the life-saving drug NARCAN to opiate overdose victims in the field during a training at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on Thursday, August 31, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department does not want a drug overdose to be the end of a life.

Instead, they want it to be the beginning of treatment and healing.

By deploying the narcotic overdose antidote Narcan to their stations, sheriff’s deputies will be equipped with the tools they need to immediately rescue the victim of an overdose.

“If we can give them another chance, another day, another opportunity to make that choice to seek treatment, that is ultimately what we want,” Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Commander Judy Gerhardt said. “We want to be guardians of the community, and that includes people with addiction.”

And to Gerhardt, the opioid epidemic is personal.

After she lost her 23-year-old nephew to an overdose, she and her loved ones began educating themselves on solutions.

“It was kind of a call to action for me and my family,” she said. “The more I learned, the more I realized that we had an opportunity to make a difference for people.”

Her nephew lived in Boston, where Gerhardt said the epidemic is much more prominent. She wanted to get in front of the problem before Los Angeles County’s opioid dilemma became as large as that on the East Coast.

“One is too many, and if we can get ahead of it so we don’t have an epidemic, that is ultimately what we want,” the commander said.

Deputies Tom Drake, right, and Michael Miller, left, teach fellow deputies how to administer the life-saving drug NARCAN to opiate overdose victims in the field during a training at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Thursday, August 31, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

In four months, the county sheriffs created a Narcan policy, started their training and got EMS approval to administer the antidote. Now, they are partnering with the Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health to seek solutions.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department just held their Narcan training on Thursday, preparing deputies to administer the antidote.

Each deputy will receive a two pack to have on hand.

Gerhardt said she hopes they never have to use it.

LASD ordered 650 packets of Narcan, which are being distributed to cities where they see the most need, including Santa Clarita, Crescenta Valley and East L.A.

“Those seemed to be higher risk,” she said. “We want to try to use predictive policing and analysis to determine where the most likely overdoses will be occurring to deploy Narcan in those areas.”

Deputies assigned to LASD’s Park Bureau and Community College Bureau are also being trained to use Narcan.

A deputy holds a box of NARCAN after boxes of the life-saving drug were handed out to deputies at a training for its use in the field at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Thursday, August 31, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has purchased 5,000 more doses of Narcan and expect them to arrive in the next few weeks.

Administering the antidote is simple, Gerhardt said, because it comes in the form of a nasal spray.

“One squirt in the nostril and that’s really the training,” she said.

The sheriffs have tried to make the training as accessible as they can for deputies, Gerhardt said.

It is so simple that she hopes the public can get their hands on it from the pharmacy, too.

Though she admits pharmacists say the antidote is more burdensome than it appears, Gerhardt said she wants to ensure it will be easily attainable.

“We want every friend or family member of someone who suffers from addiction to get Narcan, to have it on hand,” Gerhardt said.

From her perspective, the antidote is essentially risk-free and she hopes to employ it wherever and whenever possible.

“I think we all recognize that the benefits of Narcan far outweigh any risks,” Gerhardt said.

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