ST. PAUL, Minn. — Twin Cities law enforcement officials are launching a new program to promote the use of a heroin antidote.
The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is the first department in Minnesota to take advantage of a law passed in May that allows law enforcement personnel to carry and administer a drug that can temporarily reverse an opiate overdose. When the law goes into effect in August, officials will receive formal naloxone training, including how to recognize an opiate overdose, perform rescue breathing, administer the antidote and prepare for the patient's reaction.
"When someone is in an overdose state where they've stopped breathing and they're completely unconscious, essentially they're dead at that point," said Dr. Jeffrey Ho of Hennepin County Medical Center. "When you give them this antidote, you're reversing that condition, they're waking up immediately."
Minnesota Public Radio reports (http://bit.ly/1t9SgZy ) opiate overdoses have recently skyrocketed throughout the state and country. The nationwide heroin problem has led Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to call it an epidemic.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, a supporter of the new law, says heroin overdose deaths jumped from just six three years ago to 56 last year. Similar increases have been reported across the state, according to MPR.
Local law officials say at least 22 Hennepin County residents have died from heroin overdoses so far this year. They believe the use of naloxone will save lives of overdose victims they encounter while on the job.
"This is a real problem, a real epidemic — real people are dying and we need to do what we can to save them," Stanek said.
The sheriff's goal is to train at least 75 deputies. The program, which will cost about $12,000, will be funded by the department's drug forfeiture and seizure fund.
"After 31 years of public service, as a cop, as a policy maker, this is one of the proudest moments of my career," Stanek said Wednesday at an official law signing ceremony.
If Hennepin County's naloxone program is successful, other counties will likely follow suit.
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org