The South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD) has joined scores of law enforcement agencies across the nation in the ability to administer a life-saving medication for those near death because of a suspected opioid overdose.
As of Wednesday, March 13, 14 SPPD officers have received training in the administration of the NARCAN Nasal Spray. NARCAN, or Naloxone HCI, is an opioid antagonist designed to reverse the respiratory depression caused by an overdose of opioids.
So Pas patrol officers are now in the field prepared to administer NARCAN, if necessary. So far, officers have not had to administer NARCAN in South Pasadena, according to officials.
“When we administer NARCAN to an individual who has overdosed on an opioid, in a matter of minutes, they will be revived,” said So Pas Sgt. Tony Abdala, who is the program director for the SPPD Tactical Medical Program, which oversees the new NARCAN program. “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 program approval two weeks ago from the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency to implement the NARCAN (Naloxone) program.
In the coming days, all SPPD officers will receive training in the administration of NARCAN Nasal Spray. Immediately upon completion of training, SPPD officers will be issued two doses of NARCAN Nasal Spray to deploy to the field, according to Abdala. They have 38 doses available.
“When we are done 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 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 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.
Interim So Pas Police Chief Brian Solinsky also applauded the program, saying it’s about saving lives.
“This is a great program and training the Police Department is providing the officers and ultimately the community,” Solinsky said in an email to The Review. “Hopefully we never need to use it, but if so, we can potentially save someone’s life and give them a second chance. While South Pasadena has not seen an increase, the rest of the country is facing a horrendous epidemic with the opioid crisis. If we can save one life, then the program is a success.”