Police receive kits to combat opiate overdoses
Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 17, 2015
Local law enforcement officers now have another weapon at their side in the battle against heroin and prescription pain medication abuse in Cass County.
The Dowagiac Police Department and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office recently received kits containing naloxone hydrochloride (commonly known as Narcon), a substance that, if administered in time, can temporarily stop the effects of someone overdosing on an opiate-based substance. Officers with the Dowagiac Police are currently carrying the potentially-lifesaving syringes with them on the field, with county deputies expecting to be issued the kits in coming days.
In the event that someone is suffering from an overdose, officers can deploy Narcon to the victim, administering the substance as mist through one’s nasal cavity. The Narcon acts as a blocker of sorts to opiates, stopping the effects the drug has on the brain between 30 to 45 minutes — enough time to get the victim to the hospital for treatment, said Dowagiac Director of Public Safety Steve Grinnewald
“It’s a harmless substance that can’t hurt anybody,” Grinnewald said. “It will help someone in the event they’re suffering from an opioid overdose, but if they’re not it won’t have any adverse effects…as it was described to me, it would be like giving them water.”
The substance can revive victims deep into an overdose, with people whose face is turning blue coming back within 30 seconds, Grinnewald said.
Both departments, along with other law enforcement agencies across the area, have received the narcotics blocker free of charge through Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health, which provides support to people dealing with substance abuse problems in eight counties in southwest Michigan.
The Dowagiac police chief said he had been looking into deploying such units with his officers for the past year, since state law was passed that allowed police officers to use the substance.
The deployment has come at an opportune time for local officers.
Abuse of opioids, in particular heroin, has been on the rise in recent years in both the city and throughout Cass County. Over the last several years, both Dowagiac police and Cass County deputies have responded to nearly a dozen reported overdoses — many of which resulted in death.
“With all that’s going on, it made sense to add one more tool to our toolbox,” Grinnewald said. “At the end of the day, it might end up saving someone’s life.”