State po­lice to equip force with opi­oid an­ti­dote Nar­can

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN TARINELLI

Arkansas State Po­lice an­nounced Tues­day that troop­ers will be equipped with Nar­can, an anti-opi­oid med­i­ca­tion that has al­ready grown in use among law en­force­ment agen­cies in cen­tral Arkansas.

Nar­can, a trade­mark name of nalox­one, is a nasal spray that coun­ter­acts the ef­fects of an opi­oid over­dose and has been used to save mul­ti­ple lives in Pu­laski County, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. State po­lice said all 526 com­mis­sioned per­son­nel will be trained on how to ad­min­is­ter the an­ti­dote, which is rapidly being adopted by law en­force­ment agen­cies across the U.S.

Bill Sadler, a state po­lice spokesman, said a small num­ber of com­mis­sioned per­son­nel have al­ready been trained, and the agency ex­pects all per­son­nel to be trained by the end of Au­gust. The agency pur­chased the drug for $47,088, and all com­mis­sioned per­son­nel will be supplied with two

doses, he said.

Nar­can will be an­other tool for state troop­ers who come across an opi­oid over­dose, Sadler said, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas of the state where the anti-opi­oid drug may not be read­ily avail­able com­pared with a metropoli­tan en­vi­ron­ment.

“What­ever the call may be, the trooper is now equipped with this drug to lessen the chance of that per­son dy­ing,” Sadler said, not­ing that troop­ers may come across an over­dose vic­tim while as­sist­ing other law­men, con­duct­ing a traf­fic stop or in­ter­view­ing a sus­pect.

In Arkansas, the state Health Depart­ment has recorded a ris­ing num­ber of over­dose fa­tal­i­ties in re­cent years, with many at­trib­uted to the abuse of opi­oids such as methadone, hy­drocodone and Oxy­con­tin.

The num­ber of over­dose deaths in the state in­creased from 153 in 2011 to 227 in 2015, a 48 per­cent in­crease. The depart­ment tal­lied 958 fa­tal­i­ties in that five-year pe­riod.

The Nar­can an­nounce­ment drew praise from Gov. Asa Hutchin­son, who said in a state­ment that the drug will en­sure a path to treat­ment and re­cov­ery for peo­ple strug­gling with ad­dic­tion.

“I ap­plaud the Arkansas State Po­lice in its ef­fort to stem the tide of over­dose deaths by ex­pand­ing ac­cess to the life-sav­ing drug Nalox­one,” Hutchin­son said in the state­ment.

The na­tion’s opi­oid epi­demic has drawn con­cern from fed­eral and state lead­ers. A num­ber of cen­tral Arkansas law en­force­ment agen­cies pro­vide nalox­one to of­fi­cers so they can re­spond quickly to over­doses.

Ad­dress­ing the Na­tional Sher­iffs’ As­so­ci­a­tion ear­lier this summer, U.S. Deputy At­tor­ney General Rod Rosen­stein said that opi­oids are caus­ing “un­prece­dented de­struc­tion” in U.S. com­mu­ni­ties.

“I know that many of you come face-to-face with this de­struc­tion on ev­ery shift. In many ju­ris­dic­tions, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers re­spond to so many over­dose calls on a daily ba­sis that Nar­can is now as in­dis­pens­able to their work as hand­cuffs,” Rosen­stein said, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the speech on the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s web­site.

In­com­ing Arkansas Drug Di­rec­tor Kirk Lane said ad­dic­tion to opi­oids of­ten starts with pre­scrip­tion pills. The ad­dic­tion to pre­scrip­tion

pills can then push peo­ple to use heroin, which has been on the rise in the state, he said.

In 2015, un­der Lane’s lead­er­ship as po­lice chief, Ben­ton po­lice of­fi­cers were the first in Arkansas to carry Nar­can.

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic that they found the fund­ing,” he said, prais­ing the state po­lice’s de­ci­sion to pur­chase Nar­can. He said Nar­can cre­ates a safer sit­u­a­tion for the per­son suf­fer­ing from an over­dose, but also for the au­thor­i­ties re­spond­ing to the scene.

But Lane warned that Nar­can is a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion to an over­dose, and any­body treated by the anti-opi­oid drug will need to im­me­di­ately seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion. The ef­fects of an opi­oid can out­last the ef­fect of Nar­can, and over­dose symp­toms can re­turn.

Lane will leave the Ben­ton Po­lice Depart­ment on Sun­day and will start the next day as Arkansas drug di­rec­tor, serv­ing as chair­man of the Arkansas Al­co­hol and Drug Abuse Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil and co­or­di­nat­ing al­co­hol and drug abuse preven­tion ini­tia­tives.

Be­sides the state po­lice and Ben­ton, other cen­tral Arkansas law en­force­ment agen­cies that have ac­quired Nar­can kits in­clude the Pu­laski County sher­iff’s of­fice

and po­lice de­part­ments in Maumelle, North Lit­tle Rock and Jack­sonville.

Since is­su­ing Nar­can to deputies in April, the Pu­laski County sher­iff’s of­fice has re­ported sev­eral life-sav­ing in­ter­ven­tions.

Specif­i­cally, the agency re­ported in May that two peo­ple were re­vived us­ing Nar­can. The agency state­ment said that one per­son was found un­re­spon­sive in a pa­trol unit, and an­other per­son had at­tempted sui­cide by

con­sum­ing fen­tanyl, a pow­er­ful syn­thetic painkiller.

Lit­tle Rock po­lice are in the process of ac­quir­ing Nar­can for of­fi­cers, said spokesman Steve Moore. The depart­ment will not have enough Nar­can doses to sup­ply all of­fi­cers, he said, but of­fi­cials are meet­ing later this week on how to train of­fi­cers to ad­min­is­ter the an­ti­dote.

In Arkansas, the state Health Depart­ment has recorded a ris­ing num­ber of over­dose fa­tal­i­ties in re­cent years, with many at­trib­uted to the abuse of opi­oids such as methadone, hy­drocodone and Oxy­con­tin.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STA­TON BREIDENTHAL

Maj. Carl Min­den of the Pu­laski County sher­iff’s of­fice dis­plays a Nar­can kit Tues­day. Au­thor­i­ties say the nasal spray med­i­ca­tion has saved mul­ti­ple peo­ple in Pu­laski County from opi­oid over­doses.

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