Officers to soon carry opioid reversal antidotes
Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin recently announced that police officers throughout Lehigh County and detectives in various task forces will soon be using the opioid reversal antidote, Naloxone, in overdose cases.
“Currently, opiate overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths in Lehigh County,” Martin said.
He said, in 2015, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said he has investigated 103 drug deaths, of which 35 were heroin or synthetic drug related.
Opioid drugs include morphine, heroin, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Percocet, Percodan, Methadone, Codeine and Hydrocodone.
“When certain requirements are met, detectives and officers who have been trained will be able to administer Naloxone to individuals experiencing an opioid-related overdose,” Martin said. “This program will save lives and combat the destructive effects that overdoses have on families and our communities.”
Martin said Alburtis, Bethlehem, Catasauqua, Coopersburg, Coplay, Emmaus, Fountain Hill, Lower Milford Township, Macungie, Salisbury Township, Slatington, South Whitehall, Upper Macungie, Upper Saucon Township and Whitehall Township have entered into a memorandum of understanding with the district attorney’s office on using Naloxone.
He expects Allentown Police Department to enter into a memorandum of understanding in the future.
Once their officers undergo the required training, the department will receive its supply of Naxolone, Martin said.
This program was established in conjunction with the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, Capital BlueCross and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol programs, Martin stated.
He said the PDAA has received a grant from Capital BlueCross to help attorneys in the 21 counties in which it does business to acquire a supply of Naxolone for their police departments.
Capital BlueCross Senior Vice President Business Development Aji M. Abraham said BlueCross views opioid overdoses as a health crisis.
“It is an illness, and doctors will tell you it is treatable, and this is one step in that process,” he said.
“We were the first health insurance last year to sponsor this with $50,000,” Abraham stated. “This year we are happy to announce we are doubling that amount (to $100,000) because we have seen the program work.”
A grant also was received from the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust for training and the acquisition of Naxolone kits, Martin said.
He said additional funds have recently been made available to enable the purchase of more Naloxone and that he hopes to include campus police and the Department of Probation and Parole in the program in early 2016.
Martin said that designated police officers will have two doses of the prescription drug at the beginning of their shifts and will return unused doses at the end of their shifts and when an officer uses the drug, the officer will submit a report.
Quarterly reports on deployment and use of Naxolone, which is a nasal spray, will be submitted to the PDAA so that the effectiveness of the program can be evaluated, Martin stated.
Martin said officers from police departments supplied with Naxolone have undergone training facilitated by Cetronia Ambulance Corps.
Larry A. Wiersch, chief executive officer with Cetronia said, “Year to date, we have administered Naxolone nearly 100 times within our communities that we serve on the 911 side.
“By having the police have this tool in hand, it is incredibly important for us because they oftentimes will beat us there or they will get there at the same time,” Wiersch said. “Having people trained and knowledgeable with the ability to do what we do will ultimately end up with many more lives saved.”