Police to carry Narcan with them to reverse drug overdoses
News Staff Writer
GARDNER — City police officers will soon have a new life-saving tool at their disposal when they are certified to carry and administer the drug Narcan.
On Friday, Police Chief Neil Erickson signed a memorandum of understanding with Heywood Hospital that will clear the way for city police to be able to use the drug when responding to drug overdoses. The city’s emergency crews have been carrying the drug for years.
News Staff Photo by Damien Fisher
Gardner Police Chief Neil Erickson signs a memo of understanding between the city and Heywood Hospital about the use of Narcan. Looking on, from left, are Sue Christensen, Dr. Steven Yerid, CEO Win Brown, and Gardner Health Director Bernie Sullivan.
“It’s saved a number of lives over the years,” Chief Erickson said.
Narcan can be administered as a shot, or through a nasal spray. The drug blocks the opioid receptors and restores normal breathing when sprayed in the nose of someone who has overdosed on an opiate-based drug, such as heroin.
Sue Christensen, a program director with LUK and the administrator for the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition, said making the drug part of a police officer’s gear makes sense
“Oftentimes, the police arrive (at overdoses) first,” she said.
Rather than wait for the EMS crew to arrive, police will soon be trained and certified to administer the drug. Heywood Hospital CEO Win Brown, and Medical Director of the Emergency Department Dr. Steve Yerid, signed on to the agreement. The police are required to have the local medical facility be a partner in the effort to get Narcan out into the street, saving lives. Dr. Yerid will act as the medical control supervisor for the police officers.
This city initiative is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Opioid Abuse Prevention Coalition of Gardner, Fitchburg, Athol and Leominster, Gardner Police Department, Gardner Health Department and Heywood Hospital, though it is part of a larger effort to combat the heroin and opiate epidemic in New England.
“Our goal is to save lives, and the collaboration between Heywood and the City of Gardner has made this goal a reality,” Ms. Christensen said.
Last March, Gov. Deval Patrick declared the heroin and opiate epidemic a public health emergency, and ordered that all first responders be equipped to carry and administer nasal naloxone. Gardner’s police will undergo the training and certification soon, Chief Erickson said.