New Jersey has been hard hit by the US’s current opiate and prescription painkiller epidemic. However, law enforcement officials in Passaic and Morris counties have worked together to prevent over one hundred deaths in the last year. According to a report, law enforcement prevented overdose deaths from heroin and other opiates.
The saving of lives was accomplished by equipping police officers with Naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that can be used to directly counter the effects of an opiate overdose. It does this by displacing opioids from the brain receptors that control the bodies respiratory system as well as the central nervous system. The nasal spray form of Naloxone, Narcan, can be given to an overdose victim through a syringe-atomizer. It works to bring an overdose victim out of an overdose almost immediately and has helped to save thousands of lives across the United States. .
Since 2014, officers within Morris county have been equipped with Narcan. Fredric M. Knapp, Morris County Prosecutor, stated that twenty-seven police departments across the county have been equipped with this life-saving drug. He also announced that in Morris County alone, officers using Narcan have saved over fifty people who were overdosing on opiates. He stated that New Jersey has been plagued with opiate abuse and that Morris and Passaic counties have not been immune to the epidemic. In fact, these counties have been seeing the same sharp increase that communities across the U.S. have been experiencing. The prosecutor’s office released information that a minimum of 37 people had died from opiate overdoses throughout Morris County in 2015, a number that would have doubled without the swift intervention of officers. Narcan was utilized forty-eight times last year and resulted in forty-two lives being saved from overdoses.
Passaic County had deployed Narcan ninety-eight times in the same time period. In addition, Narcan was used three times each in Pompton Lakes, Bloomingdale, and Wanaque, twice in the Ringwood area, and once in West Milford. In these areas, there were eight total lives saved out of the twelve occurrences where this opiate anti-overdose medication was utilized.
Fredric Knapp has stated that law enforcement has been taking a pro-active approach to deal with the increases in opiate overdoses that are occurring all over the United States. “We are taking a dynamic approach when trying to deal with addictive substances such as heroin and prescription pain medication,” he stated. He feels that equipping all first responding police officers across New Jersey is the best way to deal with this issue currently. He sees this approach as the “compassionate and critical” choice when addressing the opiate epidemic.
While many of the New Jersey areas are supportive of the approach that police officers are taking, there is widespread agreement that emphasis should also be placed on prevention. Saving lives with this drug has made a tremendous impact on the lives saved and those that care for those peoples, but there are more lives that can be saved by creating more education and prevention programs across the state and the country. However, many believe having officers carrying this life-saving drug should be implemented across the entire state of New Jersey.