SANTA FE (AP) – By the end of this week, all 80 Santa Fe County deputies will be trained in how to use naloxone and will carry the drug-overdose remedy in their patrol cars.
It is the first law enforcement agency in New Mexico to train officers to administer the powerful drug that can reverse the effects of overdoses from opiates such as heroin, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.
The state Department of Health has been trying to expand the use of naloxone in the medical community for several years, even sending nurses to the streets to teach addicts about the remedy. And as of 2014, pharmacists can now prescribe and dispense naloxone to those patients or family members taking pain medicine after a one-on-one consultation.
Law enforcement has been slower to embrace the drug. Some officers see the medical task as an extra duty layered on top of their responsibility to enforce laws and make arrests.
But A. G. Sonny Leeper, president of Law Enforcement Training International, says that attitude is changing.
In addition to training Santa Fe officers on naloxone use, he will help train state police officers in Espanola and Taos in coming weeks.
The stigma of addition is starting to change in many communities, said Leeper, and the life saved could just as easily be that of a grandmother who accidentally took to many pain pills.
“It’s children, it’s young adults, it’s the elderly,” he said. “There are heroin ODs, but that’s just part of the story. It’s people like you and I.”
The state Health Department reports there were 9,687 doses of naloxone used in 2013 and 2014, and overdose reversals were reported in 1,119 of those instances.
Dr. David Rosen of the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center helped with the Santa Fe training last week. And the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation donated $12,000 for the naloxone kits that will be carried in county patrol cars.
A county news release says that the program rollout “sadly coincides with the grim statistics that show an uptick in overdose deaths.”
The state health department was not able to release 2014 data that might confirm that trend.
Maj. Adam Mendoza of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said a promise to his mother helped convince him that Santa Fe should lead the state in naloxone training.
He told the New Mexican last week that he and his mother, who is a member of an anti-drug community group, attended a drug prevention workshop two years ago that discussed naloxone, also known by the trade name Narcan.
He told his mother he would try to increase its availability in the sheriff’s department.
“I do have a special interest because I have family who have experienced addiction,” Mendoza said during one of last week’s three overdose prevention training workshops for county deputies. “That’s true for a lot of people.”
“We need to be pro-active,” he added. “We’re often the first ones at the scene. It just takes a matter of minutes to save someone’s life. They need to know we have this.”