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The epidemic of opioid abuse has prompted the Roseville police to start carrying medication to save the lives of people overdosing on the powerful painkilling drugs.
The kits contain naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, a drug that is administered through a nasal spray. It prevents the body from absorbing any more opioid medication, in effect stopping the progression of an overdose.
“I think every officer has stories where they come across somebody who is experiencing an overdose, but we didn’t have the medication prior to this,” said Sgt. Jeff Beigh, an officer and paramedic with the Roseville police. “Now we do, and we can get that medication to them that much quicker.”
The Placer Nevada County Medical Society used a $50,000 grant from California Healthcare Foundation to purchase 80 kits for Roseville police. Each kit costs $40.
The Roseville Police Department is the first in Placer County to receive opioid overdose kits. A 2013 change in California law allows officers and even family members to administer Narcan to a person exhibiting symptoms of an overdose.
Citrus Heights Police Department also is interested in purchasing kits and is performing a feasibility study to determine the costs, said department spokesman to Sgt. Jason Baldwin.
The police just received the kits, but the Roseville Fire Department had already been carrying them. Last year, the department responded to 78 overdose calls where Narcan was used, Beigh said. Of those, 62 percent of people suffering from an overdose showed immediate improvement.
Starting last week, every patrol car is now outfitted with a kit, and every officer has undergone training to use it, Beigh said.
“There are times where we are first on scene and if we recognize the signs and symptoms and we have the kits available, we can then administer it to them,” Beigh said. “In reality, seconds count when somebody has stopped breathing.”
According to data from the Placer County Health and Human Services Department, 49 people died from opioid overdoses between 2009 to 2013. In response, Placer County aimed to decrease the number of opioid prescriptions. Initially, prescriptions dropped by 5 percent, but jumped up again in 2014, reducing the overall decrease to 2 percent.
There’s competition to receive grant funding for opioid related programs because it’s such a big issue everywhere, said Quinn Gregory, the executive director for Placer and Nevada County Medical Society as well as the Yuba, Sutter and Colusa County Medical Society.
Last year, the Placer and Nevada County Medical Society did not receive a $50,000 grant for its Rx Drug Safety program, which is a coalition of physicians and community members that aims to educate and prevent opioid abuse. The opioid overdose kits are also funded through this program.
“(The California Department of Public Health) told us we didn’t have enough deaths for funding,” Gregory said. “It’s not just about deaths, it’s about hospitalizations. It’s about stopping the abuse and misuse.”