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Naloxone (also known as Narcan). Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/punchingjudy/1934879517/in/photolist-3WYLgF-7Z11kZ">PunchingJudy</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Naloxone (also known as Narcan). Photo: PunchingJudy, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Heroin overdose-fighting drug comes to the North Country

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Last month, almost 300 police officers from across the state gathered in Albany, to learn how to use what some health officials call the "magic weapon" in the fight against heroin. It's called Naloxone or Narcan, and if administered early enough, it can save the life of someone overdosing.

Officers came away from the two-day training not only knowing how to administer the medication, but also with prescriptions and kits of it to keep in their vehicles, all free of charge. And April's training was just the first: the plan is to bring the trainings around New York--including up to the North Country, where, for example, Malone Village police will train to use Naloxone next Wednesday.

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Reported by

Natasha Haverty
Reporter and Producer

When someone calls 911 about a drug overdose, the dispatcher will typically send both the police, and an ambulance. And in a spread out, rural area like the North Country, it's often the police who can get there first.

Mike Green is the Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York's Division of Criminal Justice Services, one of the three agencies along with the health department and the office of substance abuse services, that came together to put on these naloxone trainings. "When the police show up on the scene, and someone is not breathing, every minute is critical. And you don't want the officer just to have to stand there, waiting and watching someone who's blue, and EMS to arrive that's been trained."

Green's describing what a typical overdose looks like: a person stops breathing and starts turning blue. Up until now, a police officer arriving to an overdose just had to wait for an EMT to arrive, who was trained in how to administer Naloxone. Green says the idea is to get rid of that waiting game, "and experience has shown, it really is amazing how quickly it reverses the effects of an overdose."

The state's distributing Naloxone in the form of a nasal spray. "And it actually does look like a syringe, when you see the kit it looks like you have two syringes, but at the end of what looks like the syringe is a little nose piece. And it literally just gets sprayed into someone's nose."

And one of the most remarkable things about Naloxone, Green says, is that if an officer thinks someone's overdosing, and it turns out they're not, the medication has no damaging effects. "The doctor said the only thing that will happen is that they'll have a wet nose."

Green says the training also teaches officers about New York's good Samaritan law, passed three years ago, which protects people who call 911 about an overdose from criminal prosecution. "That person oftentimes feels like they're in a bind if they were involved in the use of heroin or involved in the use of the pills, sometimes there's this debate, 'do I call for help, will I get in trouble, what do I do.'"

Some officers from Hamilton and Essex County made it down to the training in April, but Green says the plan is to bring the trainings up to police in the North Country, for all the departments who didn't have the resources to make it down in April. The three state agencies working together on the trainings are developing a reporting system, to keep track of all the cases an officer uses naloxone.

Commissioner Green, and other law enforcement officials say that naloxone isn't the solution to the problem—it's just a tool.

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