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Health, Science & Tech

State Police to Carry Heroin Overdose Reversal Drug

Pennsylvania State Police will now carry the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in their cruisers.

In Pennsylvania, heroin and prescription drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death, killing more people each year than motor vehicle accidents. In 2014, state police investigated 183 overdose deaths and 126 non-fatal overdoses, according to Gary Tennis, acting secretary of the Department of Drug and alcohol Programs.

“This is a crisis that is historically unprecedented,” Tennis said. “At last count, under the statistics by the Center for Disease Control, we lost 2,400 Pennsylvanians in the year 2012.”

Every state patrol car will be equipped with two doses of naloxone, funded by grants from Aetna, Geisinger Health, Health Partner Plans and the Highmark Foundation, which contributed $50,000.

State police already have experience with naloxone. In November, a state law took effect giving police officers, firefighters, first responders, family members and loved ones of those at risk of an opioid overdose the ability to administer the drug. Now, the Physician General has signed a standing order giving police and firefighters access to the drug without a prescription.

According to Marcus Brown, acting commissioner of the State Police, about 3,900 of the department’s nearly 4,300 members have completed an online naloxone training course.

“This measure will make it possible for troopers to save lives of people who are overdosing on heroin or any other opioid,” Brown said.

The remaining 400 troopers have until April 15 to complete the online course.

Some Pennsylvania counties have already adopted laws allowing police to carry naloxone, including Delaware County, which passed a bill in September. Since then, the drug has been used to reverse 31 overdoses.

The Pitcairn Police Department started training officers to carry and administer naloxone, which is also know as Narcan, in August.

“The job of our department is not only to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth, but it’s to protect the lives of our citizens,” Brown said. “And the availability of naloxone will allow our troopers to do just that.”

The state has also received nearly $300,000 in grants to provide naloxone to municipal and campus police departments.