The South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD) saved its first life using the Narcan nasal spray by bringing back to consciousness a comatose individual who allegedly had been snorting the strong opioid, Oxycodone.
“On Saturday, May 25th, at about 12:53 p.m., the South Pasadena Police Department received a call for help regarding a 21-year-old male who was down and unresponsive in the 1100 block of Indiana Ave.,” states a press release issued by the SPPD last Saturday. “The caller said the victim had been snorting Oxycodone.”
Officers arrived about two minutes after the call was received and found the victim on the ground, unresponsive, not breathing and without an apparent pulse, according to the press release. The man was suffering from a suspected opioid overdose, according to witnesses. The officers, who had been trained in the proper administration of Narcan back in March, gave the man one dose of Narcan nasal spray and started Cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR. So Pas Fire paramedics arrived and provided medical assistance. The man was treated and taken to a local hospital. He was conscious and breathing on his own when he left, police said.
“This incident is our first documented save since the inception of our Narcan program and a great example of teamwork with our fire department,” SPPD Watch Commander, Sergeant Tony Abdalla, said in the press release. “Saving lives is our first priority and we couldn’t be happier about this outcome.”
So Pas joined scores of law enforcement agencies across the nation in the ability to administer the life-saving medication, Narcan, for those near death because of a suspected opioid overdose.
So Pas police were trained in the proper use of Narcan in March. Narcan, or Naloxone HCI, is an opioid antagonist designed to reverse the respiratory depression caused by an overdose of opioids.
“When we administer NARCAN to an individual who has overdosed on an opioid, in a matter of minutes, they will be revived,” Abdala said in an earlier interview when the program was first approved. Abdala is the program director for the SPPD Tactical Medical Program, which oversees the new Narcan program.
He explained the Narcan effect: “Their breathing will be restored and the effects of the opioid will be reversed. When a person is suspected of an overdose, we are often the first to arrive on scene and now we can save a life and that’s what this is all about.”
The SPPD received official approval in the beginning of March from the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency to implement Narcan.
SPPD officers are issued two doses of the nasal spray to deploy in the field, according to Abdala. They have 38 doses available.
“When we are done with the training upwards of 30 officers will be able to administer Narcan,” Abdala said. “We are even going to train administration because this is an actual life-saving medication.”
Officers administer the spray by introducing it into the nostril of the individual and in “a matter of minutes” the possible death by overdose is reversed.
“We are very excited about this program,” Abdala said. “Our mission is to save lives and this medication is remarkable because it does just that. It saves lives.”
So Pas firefighters have been using Narcan for years in the form of an injection and now local police will have the same life-saving capabilities in the spray.
Abdala estimates that local police respond to about two opioid overdoses a month.
“It varies quite often,” he said. “Sometimes we have none and sometimes we have a few. I would estimate that it breaks down to about two a month.”
The opioid epidemic has hit nationwide and hard in such areas as New Hampshire and the Midwest, but is relatively modest in the South Pasadena area, according to officials.
However, a drug known as fentanyl has become more popular among drug users, which can be far more deadly than other opioids. People oftentimes underestimate fentanyl’s potency, which is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose,” according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Of those deaths, almost 68 percent involved a prescription or illicit opioid.” CDC officials also said opioid overdose deaths increased from 2016 to 2017.
Newly appointed So Pas Police Chief Joe Ortiz applauded his officers for their quick response in saving a life.
“With the nation’s opioid epidemic and recent fentanyl exposures to first responders, the South Pasadena Police Department formed a partnership with the LA County, Department of Public Health Services,” Ortiz said in an email last Saturday. “Together, we worked towards creating a program where Narcan could be deployed (as needed) by our officers. Sergeant Abdalla and his team recently provided training to our officers. I actually attended the training myself and found the training to be extremely informative and actually carry a box of Narcan with me. Our officers did what they were trained to do and we were able to save a life today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the young man we helped out today in hopes of a full recovery. Our department will recognize the heroic efforts of our officers in the very near future.”