As the heroin and opoid epidemic in America continues to spread throughout our battered states, New York state is doing its part to help combat this epidemic. As part of a new state law, New York City police will begin carrying large amounts of anti-opiate drugs in an effort to combat a recent spike in heroin deaths, according to New York law enforcement officials.
With a recent spike in heroin-related deaths, the city says the antidote kits are needed to help save lives. That was New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's message as he announced that 19,500 officers with the New York Police Department — the nation’s largest police force — will receive kits with the opiate antidote drug naloxone, which can instantly restore breathing in people who have overdosed.
Schneiderman said "It is something we have to fight and Naloxone is an important part of our efforts because it actually counteracts the effects of heroin. The way you die from a heroin overdose is you stop breathing. And naloxone is something that gets people breathing again," he continued.
"Heroin has been growing as a problem and it is now interwoven with abusive prescription opioids and other drugs," he continued. “This program will literally save lives - using naloxone by allowing victims to be brought back from the brink of death and buying more time to get to a hospital. It isn't every day that we can announce that we will save lives."
It's the first state in the nation to do so, using $5 million, which is bankrolled by money seized from drug dealers and other convicts, to fund their Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, the attorney general’s office said.“More than 150 police departments around the state have applied to receive naloxone kits since April and most have been approved.”
The kits, costing about $60 each, contain two pre-filled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal use and sterile gloves along with other items to help use it safely. They have a shelf life of two years.
It was not immediately clear when the program will begin. It expands on a smaller pilot program used by NYPD on Staten Island, which resulted in a handful of overdose reversals, the attorney general’s office said.
Opiate overdoses killed more than 2,000 New York residents in 2011, more than double the number in 2004, state records show. Across the United States, the number of fatal opiate overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006-2010. Currently, most law enforcement agencies are using the nasal spray version of the antidote, which is slightly different than the auto-injector.
Some states have already taken steps to make naloxone more broadly available, though mostly through a patchwork of pilot programs. In Massachusetts and Maryland, police departments have a standing order from health departments to allow emergency medical workers to use naloxone.
In New Jersey and Ohio, there are laws allowing people who may witness an overdose to administer naloxone.
The antidote saved the life of Angie Ruhry's son, Peter, in 2009. Though he died 18 months later, Ruhry said "Those 18 months were a gift. Anyone that's lost a loved one knows that even one more day is a gift."
She emphasized her support of the program, saying, "People are dying and we have this powerful tool to save lives in the midst of the epidemic."