On Halloween night, a Seymour police officer responded to a call about an unresponsive 21-year-old.
At the scene, the officer administered Narcan, which works to reverse the effects of an overdose of opioids, such as heroin, morphine, Oxycodone and others.
That action saved the man’s life.
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The Seymour Police Department is one of 55 Indiana law enforcement agencies now trained and equipped with Narcan, also known as naloxone. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Brownstown Police Department also went through training this past spring.
On Tuesday, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller visited the sheriff’s department in Brownstown to present its officers and Seymour officers with honorary pins they can wear on their uniforms to indicate they are trained to administer naloxone and save lives.
“I want to see people come up to law enforcement and say, ‘Thanks for your service’ because you put your lives on the line every day,” Zoeller said. “You not only serve and protect us, but now you’re saving lives of people that we used to just arrest and drag off to jail. My hat’s off, and I’m glad to be able to be the first to thank you on behalf of all the people in the state.”
Zoeller said at least 165 lives have been saved by law enforcement administering naloxone in Indiana.
Naloxone usually comes in the form of a nasal spray and works by counteracting the effects of an overdose of heroin or other opiate. That gives first responders additional time to get an unconscious patient to the hospital.
Zoeller is the creator and co-chairman of the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. He is urging all law enforcement entities to train and equip their officers with naloxone as a response to rising overdose deaths in the state.
A 2015 Indiana State Department of Health report indicates the number of heroin overdoses in Indiana more than doubled from 2011 to 2013. Three out of four new heroin users reported having abused prescription opioids before using heroin.
“Law enforcement in Jackson County have stepped up to help combat the public health emergency that necessitates this difficult yet critical response,” Zoeller said.
“Jackson County officers are trained and ready to prevent overdose deaths and help link people to treatment,” he added. “Jackson County residents are fortunate to have this type of leadership in their community as Indiana battles the opioid abuse epidemic in our state that is taking more lives than car accidents.”
Seymour Police Department officers have administered Narcan at least twice. The other instance was in early July when a 20-year-old man was found not breathing in a vehicle outside his apartment in Seymour. Police arrived and administered a dose of Narcan with no success.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers said none of his officers has had to administer Narcan.
“The sheriff’s department does not condone opioid abuse,” Carothers said. “But our hope is that if someone does use, that we may save their life and then turn them around and give them a second chance at life, drug-free.”
Zoeller recently announced a new grant program to fund naloxone distribution. The goal is to ensure all first responders are equipped with the lifesaving treatment and trained to administer it.
Nonprofits registered with the state health department to distribute naloxone kits and provide training on its use by law enforcement and other first responders can apply for grant funding from the attorney general’s office.
The program is funded by a recent pharmaceutical settlement reached between Zoeller’s office and Amgen, a pharmaceutical company, for deceptive drug promotion.
“The case was about off-label marketing, so they sell their prescription drugs for things other than what it’s approved for,” Zoeller said. “We got $1.3 million. That’s how much overselling they were doing. I’ve asked the court to allow us to use it for this program.”
The initial wave of available grant program funding is set at $100,000.
To apply for a grant, eligible nonprofits must submit a plan to the attorney general’s office detailing which first responders in their service area are in need of naloxone, whether any jurisdictions in their service area are high risk, whether any jurisdictions have a demonstrated financial need to fund naloxone programs and an estimated count of naloxone kits needed in the service area.
The nonprofits also must detail their plan and timeline for training first responders on using naloxone kits.
The individual award amounts will be determined based on the geographic service areas the nonprofit can reach and the number of law enforcement agencies and first responders in that specific area per approved application.
A naloxone kit containing one dose costs about $75. The attorney general’s office anticipates the first wave of the grant program to fund the distribution of at least 1,000 naloxone kits to first responders. Zoeller said the program may be expanded depending on future need.
“I wish I didn’t have to be telling law enforcement this is a medical emergency,” Zoeller said. “We’ve got public health and public safety, and as much as I’m first and foremost part of the criminal justice system and public safety, we’ve got a medical emergency, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has announced a new grant program to ensure all first responders are equipped with naloxone or Narcan and trained to administer it.
Grant applications will be accepted through Dec. 1. Grants will be awarded at the start of next year.
For information about the grant program and how to apply, visit BitterPill.in.gov and click on “Harm Reduction — Naloxone Training for First Responders.”
Information on naloxone efforts can be found at BitterPill.IN.gov under “Harm Reduction.”