A nasal spray to the res­cue

Deputies will use nalox­one to treat opi­oid over­doses

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Meg Bern­hard

The Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment will sup­ply thou­sands of field deputies with the nasal anti-opi­oid spray nalox­one to help pre­vent over­dose-re­lated deaths, of­fi­cials an­nounced Thurs­day.

Next week, the de­part­ment will be­gin is­su­ing more than 1,200 sin­gle-dose spray dis­pensers — sold un­der the brand name Nar­can — to field deputies in Santa Clarita, Cres­centa Val­ley and East L.A., as well as to deputies pa­trolling com­mu­nity col­leges and parks.

An ad­di­tional 5,000 kits will be is­sued to deputies across the county in the next few months, thanks to a grant from the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health. A two-pack of the spray kits costs $75.

“We must … gather the means nec­es­sary to in­su­late L.A. County from the opi­oid and heroin-re­lated dev­as­ta­tion that we have seen in other parts of the coun­try,”

Sher­iff Jim McDon­nell said Thurs­day at a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the pi­lot pro­gram.

Re­ports of opi­oid-re­lated deaths have in­creased across the na­tion over the last sev­eral years, with fa­tal­i­ties largely con­cen­trated across New Eng­land and the Mid­west, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Na­tion­ally, an av­er­age of 91 peo­ple per day die from opi­oidor heroin-re­lated over­doses, ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter.

Though fa­tal­ity rates are lower, Los An­ge­les County has not been spared from the epi­demic. Ac­cord­ing to the county coro­ner, 408 peo­ple were re­ported to have died from pre­scrip­tiono­pi­oid-re­lated over­doses in 2014. Be­tween 2006 and 2013, the county saw a 170% in­crease in opi­oid-re­lated emer­gency room vis­its, the L.A. County De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health re­ported.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cers are of­ten first to ar­rive on the scene of a med­i­cal emer­gency, but un­til now have not been equipped with the means to im­me­di­ately re­spond to opi­oid over­doses, McDon­nell said.

Nar­can, which McDon­nell said re­quires min­i­mal train­ing to use and is “al­most risk-free,” will al­low field deputies to ad­min­is­ter treat­ment with a sin­gle puff through an in­di­vid­ual’s nos­tril, block­ing the ef­fects of an opi­oid over­dose.

The de­part­ment’s ef­forts were spurred in part by Cmdr. Judy Ger­hardt, whose 23-year-old nephew Maxwell Baker died in De­cem­ber of an opi­oid over­dose. While mourn­ing his death, Ger­hardt and her daugh­ter, Michelle Payne, who also works for the Sher­iff’s De­part­ment, be­gan re­search­ing over­dose treat­ment and helped craft the pi­lot pro­gram.

“I am the face of what opi­oid ad­dic­tion does to a family,” Ger­hardt said at the press con­fer­ence.

Ger­hardt said the de­part­ment hopes the pro­gram will help ed­u­cate peo­ple and re­move the stigma as­so­ci­ated with opi­oid ad­dic­tion. Her nephew, she said, was a “sweet young man” with as­pi­ra­tions to be­come a doc­tor.

The Sher­iff’s De­part­ment’s ef­fort fol­lows a statewide move­ment to make nalox­one more ac­ces­si­ble. In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that al­lows phar­ma­cists to pro­vide the drug with­out a pre­scrip­tion.

This spring, the Los An­ge­les Po­lice De­part­ment and the Los An­ge­les Fire De­part­ment part­nered to pro­vide po­lice of­fi­cers with nalox­one to more quickly re­spond to opi­oid over­doses.

Fire of­fi­cials said in­creased use of the nasal spray will also ease the bur­den on its first re­spon­ders.

Coun­ties be­yond Los An­ge­les have also be­gun is­su­ing the drug to law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. The Orange County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment has ad­min­is­tered Nar­can 21 times over the last year and a half, Lt. Fred Thomp­son said. The med­i­ca­tion was suc­cess­fully used in 20 of those cases, he said.

“In­stead of sit­ting there and watch­ing the life drain out of some­one,” Thomp­son said, of­fi­cers “have some­thing they can use to help.”

Gary Coron­ado Los An­ge­les Times

AT A NEWS con­fer­ence, L.A. County Sher­iff Jim McDon­nell, left, an­nounces the is­suance of the anti-opi­oid nasal spray prod­uct Nar­can to field deputies.

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