Thursday, January 31, 2019

[San Mateo County] Police turn to OD medication

Naloxone used to save people from overdose and officers from exposure

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
With the opioid epidemic in full swing, local police departments are equipping officers with Naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of a drug overdose — and an incident in San Bruno last month illustrated that such a move can be life saving.
On the night of Dec. 25, San Bruno police responded to an overdose call on San Bruno Avenue, where they found a 20-year-old woman unconscious and not breathing. One officer performed CPR and the woman regain consciousness briefly, but soon stopped breathing again.
It was learned that the woman had attempted suicide by injecting fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. The officer prepared and administered a department-issued dose of Naloxone. The woman regained consciousness and was transported to a hospital.
Naxolone is nontoxic, it’s administered by way of a nasal spray and it can quickly restore normal respiration to a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped because of an overdose on heroin or prescription opioid medications such as fentanyl, according to a press release.
The San Bruno Police Department along with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office were among the first departments in the county to train and equip all sworn officers with a brand of Naxolone called Narcan.
“It’s been very effective and in all applications that I’m aware of it’s brought the [overdose victim] back to a point where medics can transport them,” said San Bruno police Lt. Ryan Johansen, who could personally think of at least four cases of department-issued Naloxone saving someone from drug overdose since all officers began carrying the medication about five months ago.
All Sheriff’s Office deputies were trained to administer the drug and have been equipped with it for about as long.
“It’s been a vital tool that we’ve used in the county and it worked each of the times that we’ve needed to use it,” said Sheriff’s Office Detective Rosemerry Blankswade. “It’s very effective for reversing the effects of a fatal dose of fentanyl or opiates as a whole.”
Blankswade said she her colleagues have used Narcan numerous times in the past few months and she witnessed one such incident in San Carlos.
“It saved this woman’s life and she was a repeat dug user. They used it to revive her after she had stopped breathing,” Blankswade said.
Medical responders have been equipped with Naxolone for some time, but part of the reason why there has been a push to also have police officers carry the medication is because they are sometimes the first to respond to overdose calls, particularly in rural areas. Time is of the essence for such calls as an opioid overdose can lead to severe brain damage and death within minutes.
Exposure to potent drugs like fentanyl through skin contact or breathing airborne particles can also be lethal to first responders. A lethal dose of fentanyl may be as low as 2 to 3 milligrams — less than three grains of salt, according to information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration provided by the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury in its June report on the use of the Naxolone.
Every city in San Mateo County has or is in the process of purchasing Naxolone and training its officers to use it. That was the recommendation in the civil jury report, which included responses from every city in the county. Nearly all of those cities pledged to have their officers equipped and prepared to use Naxolone by the end of 2018.
That report concluded that purchasing the medication and training officers would require minimal time and funding. It appears training an officer typically takes just one hour or so and many departments estimated the cost of such a program at about $50,000.
“Training is pretty straightforward,” Blankswade said. “[Narcan] is just a spray up the nasal cavity and it takes effect quickly.”
Blankswade and Johansen also both said they’ve seen a rise in fentanyl and opioid use as well as an increase in overdoses in San Bruno and across the county of late.
According to the report, more than 42,000 Americans died of opioid overdose in 2016. That year, more than 1,900 people died in California and 19 people died in San Mateo County.
“The opioid epidemic is not somebody else’s problem,” the report states.
January 17, 2019
San Mateo Daily Journal
By Zachary Clark

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