The Suffolk County Legislature has adopted a measure that will equip Suffolk County police officers in some precincts with an anti-overdose medication that has been shown to help victims of opiate drug overdoses.
Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn, D-Setauket, introduced the bill in response to an epidemic of opiate deaths over the past several years: Between 2004 and 2011, opiate deaths in Suffolk County increased by more than 70 percent, she said in a statement. Oftentimes, she said, police officers are the first responders to calls involving overdoses. Previously, a program to provide the drug to emergency medical technicians was set to begin this year; this measure expands the program to include the police.
“Time is critical in all medical emergencies, but can truly mean the difference between life and death in cases involving drug overdoses,” Hahn said in a statement. “By allowing for the administration of life saving treatments more quickly than is currently the case, this bill will hopefully improve the outcomes of opioid overdoses here in Suffolk County.”
The bill awaits signing by Suffolk County Exec. Steve Bellone.
The measure calls for a two-year pilot program in which officers in select communities will be equipped with doses of the drug naloxone hydrochloride, commonly known as Narcan. Officers will first be trained on how to recognize the signs of an opiate overdose and how to administer the dose. Individual doses are expected to cost less than $3 per dose.
Following the pilot program, the county's Department of Health Services and the Police Department will analyze data to measure its effectiveness, and will ultimately make a recommendation on the future of the program in Suffolk County.
“While the ultimate goal is to have these addicts seek treatment, the reality is that for too many death comes before sobriety," Hahn said. "It is my hope that this bill will allow someone’s child the time and a second chance to get clean.”
The philosophy of the measure is in line with Bellone's previous anti-drug initiatives. In March, he and Health Services Commissioner James Tomarken provided a document called “Preventing Misuse of Prescription Opioid Drugs” to nearly 9,000 health professionals in Suffolk County capable of prescribing medications.