Friday, March 13, 2015
by Mike Nolan
A Cook County commissioner from the Southland wants to see more police officers equipped with a drug that can prevent heroin overdoses.
Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman, R-Orland Park, introduced a resolution that was adopted by the county board Wednesday, calling for police and other first responders to be trained in the use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, when they encounter a person exhibiting signs of an overdose of opioids, such as heroin.
Fire department paramedics have long had access to Narcan, but police officers cannot, by law, carry the drug or administer it without training and approval from qualified medical personnel.
Will County last summer approved a program to train police officers in using Narcan, which is a nasal spray, and Orland Park police are also being equipped and trained in using it.
In 2013, opioid abuse led to 383 deaths in Cook County, and 234 were related to heroin overdoses, according to Gorman's office.
Paramedics with the Orland Fire Protection District have used Narcan on "numerous occasions," with an annual peak of 50-plus doses reached a couple of years ago, Fire Chief Ken Brucki said.
"We have seen a reduction in the number of cases" in recent years, but that number "is still staggering," he said.
Having police able to administer the drug would be a benefit because they're on the streets and often "can get there (a medical call) ahead of us," Brucki said.
He said that a delay of even a minute or two in administering the drug can make the difference in saving a life.