The Camden County Sheriff’s Office has received a grant from the Missouri Board of EMS that will provide funding for deputies to be equipped with Narcan, an FDA-approved nasal spray form of naloxone that can alleviate the effects of an opioid overdose. In order to utilize the medicine, deputies will complete a three-hour course on proper use and storage techniques.
Captain Chris Twitchel explained that Narcan is an essential “part of the tool belt” when it comes to dealing with a call involving overdoses. He says an equipped officer can be at the scene long before a fully-staffed ambulance and administer the spray, which can be the difference between life and death. The spray can also be used to help officers who might be affected by exposure to fentanyl in the field, which Twitchel says is one more major reason it’s a necessary step for the department. The increasing mix of fentanyl into the opioid abuse market is main factor putting police officers’ lives at risk in these situations.
According to department statistics, Twitchel says that overdose calls have raised 311 percent since 2015. This was a main factor when deciding on priorities for department updates. Twitchel says this line of thinking helps to bring the county into a “21st century mindset.”
Narcan is not a complete treatment to an overdose, but rather a temporary aid that would help keep an affected person stable on the way to medical treatment at a hospital. Twitchel says that without this window of time, many overdoses result in a death.
“This allows us to help a person who may have stepped into something a little too deep,” Twitchel said.
The funds necessary to supply the Narcan were not immediately available to the county, according to Twitchel. When researching ways to equip his officers with this medicine, Twitchel says Sheriff Tony Helms advised him to look into a grant. As he shopped around, he says the Missouri Board of EMS reached out with a grant opportunity with the hope that this funding would help promote use of the medicine within the state. This led to a combined effort and helped the county secure the funds for purchase of an initial 30 doses and also the training.
The Narcan itself costs around $4,000 for 30 doses ($130 each), according to Twitchel. One bottle will be placed in each county emergency vehicle. However, there is also a cost for training the first responders for proper certification. Overall, he says the total cost of equipping and training deputies will result in slightly under $10,000.
Camden County is the last major law enforcement agency in the tri-county area to carry the spray.
The Miller County Sheriff’s Office began carrying it last year after initiating training in July 2017. The department’s training in Columbia was provided by the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.
All local law enforcement agencies within Morgan County – including the sheriff’s office, Laurie, Versailles and Stover police departments – carry and have had training for NARCAN funded through CLERF. Set up by state statute through the judicial system, the County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund receives monies through court-ordered restitution from the convicted.
The Lake Ozark Police Department previously reported having one officer trained to administer Narcan, but no Narcan for use. The Sunrise Beach Police Department previously reported having Narcan, but officers needed to be trained in its use. The Osage Beach Police Department does not carry Narcan, however its ambulance service – similarly to other ambulance services – does carry it and has for years.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol began training and carrying Narcan in September 2017.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office made one of the first reported uses of Narcan by a Lake area law enforcement agency when a deputy saved a man’s life on September 17, 2017, administering a dose to a 20-year-old male subject who was found unresponsive after a 911 call reporting a possible overdose at a residence off Route TT. The deputy was first on scene with the ambulance arriving later.
Twitchel says he expects push back from the community, as they may see that people being saved with this medicine as “drug-heads.” He wants people to understand that good people make bad decisions and this tool can help everyone involved in these incidents, for the community and officers alike. He says that this tool is at the ready for those who can’t help themselves.
“I want to be able to go to sleep at night knowing I’ve done everything for my community that I can,” Twitchel said. “That’s what we are in this job for, to save lives. If we turn a blind eye to this tool, we aren’t doing that job.”