Solely within the city limits of Bradenton in 2016, there were 286 opioid overdoses, with 15 recorded fatalities.
In the first few months of 2017, there were nine overdose deaths.
Very often, police officers are the first to arrive on scene, but they are limited to basic life-saving techniques until emergency medical responders arrive to provide the life-saving drug Narcan. Until now, police officers have not had Narcan available to them, but that’s about to change.
The Bradenton Police Department has received a $20,000 Florida Department of Law Enforcement grant, enough money to purchase 400 units of Narcan to be put into the hands of law enforcement officers to potentially save valuable minutes that can be the difference between life and death.
“I can’t say with all certainty that our presence would have prevented any deaths if we had Narcan before now, but what I can say is delivering Narcan as quickly as possible to a person experiencing an overdose is the best means to protect and preserve life,” said police Lt. Jeremy Giddens.
Giddens said officers will undergo training while the department is waiting on the units of Narcan, and said he hopes to have the drug deployed to the streets some time in June.
Another dangerous trend is officers coming into skin contact with drugs being laced with heroin like fentanyl, up to 50 times more potent than heroin, and carfentanil, 10,000 times stronger than morphine. In some cases, officers are becoming ill, and even overdosing, on scene when coming into contact with those powerful drugs.
The federal Centers for Disease Control recently recommended that law enforcement officers carry Narcan on the beat to not only help save lives of overdose victims, but to treat each other, if necessary.
Giddens said the city will distribute some of the Narcan to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Palmetto Police Department.
“We have been battling this opioid epidemic for the last several years,” Giddens said. “Law enforcement is on scene first many times and have to wait for EMS to respond and deliver. We typically provide CPR until that happens, but this grant will reverse that and allow officers to administer Narcan as soon as they arrive.”