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Paramedics this month have used Narcan almost 400 times to stop drug overdoses. Bradenton cops ready to join the fight

Police train how to adminster Narcan

Bradenton police officers begin training how to administer Narcan to help save lives in the battle against opioid overdoses. Bradenton Herald Mark Young
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Bradenton police officers begin training how to administer Narcan to help save lives in the battle against opioid overdoses. Bradenton Herald Mark Young

Just in the month of June, Manatee County paramedics have administered 396 doses of Narcan to opioid overdose patients.

In the first six months of 2017, 1,242 doses of the life-saving drug were administered and from June of 2016 through the end of this month, 3,767 doses of Narcan were given. But EMS District Chief Jason Evans said the worst is likely to come as July tends to be the peak month for overdoses.

Evans said it’s a good time for Bradenton police officers to be in the fight to help save lives.

“We need some help so we appreciate you guys getting into the game,” Evans said during Thursday’s training of law enforcement to administer nasal-delivered Narcan.

The department received a $20,000 Florida Department of Law Enforcement grant in May to purchase 400 units of Narcan since police are often the first to arrive on scene. Evans said it’s not a typical role for police officers to play, “but we are all playing a role in trying to solve this problem.”

Officers not only learned how to administer the drug, but delved into the mentality of drug addiction. Evans said the old way of thinking that it’s the chemical dependance of a drug that causes addiction isn’t necessarily correct. Evans said traumatic injuries to the elderly are a common dispatch for EMS personnel and pointed out that patients are given powerful opioids from the time EMS arrives on scene until a patient leaves the hospital weeks later.

“So if the mentality is opioids are causing the addiction, we would have grandma and grandpa coming out of the hospital as addicts,” Evans said.

A 1970s study with a single rat in a small cage that provided two water bottles, one regular and one laced with opioids, showed the rat would choose the laced bottle to a point of overdosing and dying. That set the standard of thinking for decades, but a recent study showed addiction is potentially more environmental.

“It took a different approach,” Evans said. “It made a rat park and put everything in that park a rat would love, including other rats. It also put the water bottles in and none of the rats overdosed in rat park, so it may not be the substance, (but rather) the cage they are in.”

EMS and law enforcement personnel admittedly get frustrated in the opioid battle because there are times when they respond to the same person, as many as four times in a single day.

What happens is, we see a bad batch hit the streets, everyone uses it and bam, it hits all at once again.

Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan

“All we can do is try,” Evans said. “We run these calls every day and it would be normal to get a little jaded, but we keep in mind: what kind of cage are these people in? We are trying, but it’s a slow process.”

The Bradenton Police Department is the first agency in the area to receive the Narcan grant and will spearhead a larger program with sister agencies throughout Manatee County. Police Lt. Brian Thiers said it’s a chance for officers to do more on scene.

“This provides our officers with the ability to step up life saving efforts,” Thiers said. “Officers will have that one more added life-saving tool in their bag to hopefully save someone’s life from an overdose.”

Training will continue this week. Chief Melanie Bevan said overdoses are remaining consistent, but the department does see an ebb and flow in when it happens.

“What happens is, we see a bad batch hit the streets, everyone uses it and bam, it hits all at once again,” Bevan said. “We are modeling this program and taking great time and effort to make sure we do this right, but it should be in our officers’ hands in the next few weeks.”

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