Officials: Use of lifesaving overdose drug expanding
bshea@ cecilwhig. com
— The use of an overdose- reversing drug by first responders has expanded in the county over the past 18 months, after a program trained all Cecil County law enforcement agencies on its administration, of ficials reported at Thursday night’s meeting of the Mayor’s Drug Task Force.
Several mayors, law enforcement leaders and health officials came together to discuss the use of naloxone, a nasal spray prescription medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and allows time for a patient to seek additional medical treatment.
County law enforcement agencies have administered naloxone, also commonly known by its brand name Narcan, 22 times through June and there have been 118 total administrations, including those by emergency medical services ( EMS) personnel, so far this year, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Maj. George Stanko said.
In 2015, 221 naloxone administrations were performed cumulatively by county law enforcement agencies and EMS per-
sonnel, Stanko reported. He said of those 221 administrations, only 14 were performed by police agencies in the county.
Richard Brooks, director of the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services, said departmental protocol for paramedics is to administer naloxone to any unconscious person. He noted that the statistics do not necessarily mean an increase in overdoses, but also reflect a raising the comfort level for the first responders in administering the drug.
Over the past two years, CCDES has gone to many lengths to introduce the lifesaving medicine to first responders, Brooks said, noting that included teaching local enforcement officers how to carry and administer naloxone.
Although, the drug is a great tool for preventing fatalities, it doesn’t prevent a user from overdosing in the future and there have been instances of patients overdosing multiple times, Brooks said.
He said naloxone has been in his treatment regiment for at least 25 years, starting with the medicine being injected intravenously then evolving into an intramuscular version and now a nasal spray, which slows absorption allowing people to awakened calmer and slower compared to intravenously.
“It’s a path that we have to save lives and protect people, but we have to continue on to the next level, to that next statement for that individual,” Brooks said, noting paramedics tr y to connect patients with treatment resources. “We’re in a good position to address an overdose as it occurs, but that’s all the reactive.”
Richard Raftery, a peer recovery advocate with the county’s health department, said he sees the biggest issue in the county is the inability to get immediate treatment for the people who have overdosed. As the initial point of contact for many who seek help, Raftery said he has seen patients overdose again while waiting for an opening at a treatment facility.
“If we could just get to the point where the officer goes to this person, gives them that ( naloxone) dose, hands them a card for a peer recovery advocate, they call me and I can get them into detox or a rehab immediately, that’s gonna make a really big impact on our whole issue here,” he said. “This is why we keep getting that repeat person and then we end up losing them.”
Raftery, who is also the president of Voices of Hope for Cecil County, a nonprofit recovery advocacy group, said his group recently received permission to have a peer in schools beginning this year.
Meanwhile, Perr yville Mayor Jim Eberhardt questioned the lack of consequences for using illegal substances, which uses too many county resources and gives a person a pass for using the drug.
Stanko said it is being treated as a medical problem and not a legal problem. He said if they were arrested and detained in the county detention center, that means they are in the pre- trial stage and cannot utilize any available services.
Cecil County Department of Emergency Services Director Richard Brooks (left) talks to the group about naloxone Thursday night.