Leave Feedback

Drug to help with overdose victims

Tom Jackson • May 9, 2014 at 6:00 PM

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office has begun deploying naloxone, a drug credited with saving the lives of dozens of heroin overdose victims in Lorain County.

“We have it out with our deputies on the road,” Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said.

The sheriff’s office began using it late last week. School resource deputies and administrators at the sheriff’s office, including Sigsworth himself, also have been issued the drug.    

Naloxone, known commercially under a variety of names, including Narcan, is usually given as a mist sprayed into the nose of a person who is unconscious because of an overdose of heroin or another opiate.

It was introduced in Ohio last year in Lorain County, where law enforcement tried it as a pilot project authorized by the state.

The Lorain Police Department’s spokesman for the program couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but Vermilion’s police chief, Chris Hartung, said it’s saved 32 or 33 lives so far.

Because Vermilion is partially in Lorain County, it took part in the pilot program. The small department has used the drug twice, Hartung said.

The first use was in January; it saved someone who apparently made a suicide attempt, Hartung said.

The second time, police were too late.

“The second one, she still had the needle in her arm. She had passed away,” Hartung said.

When the Lorain County experiment proved to be a success, lawmakers passed a law making the drug available to law enforcement officers in Ohio’s other 87 counties.

Sigsworth, who had watched what was going on Lorain County, worked with Erie County’s Health Department to get it out to his deputies quickly.

“We are in the business to save lives. This is something that appears to be very simple and very effective that we can use. We are not trying to take the place of trained paramedics” Sigsworth said.

The health department has helped by paying the initial cost of the drug. In addition, the state’s pharmacy board is charging $112.50 to issue a license to every law enforcement agency, and the health department has agreed to pay that cost, too.

Health department officials also have been training law officers on how to use naloxone. The health department deserves a lot of credit for its help, Sigsworth said, and went out of its way to provide the training for the various times deputies are on duty.

Health Commissioner Pete Schade said the department is helping four Erie County police departments obtain their licenses: the Sandusky Police Department, and police departments for Perkins, Bay View and Huron. The health department will send in the applications and pay the fees, Schade said.

The health department is trying to help police obtain the life-saving drug as soon as possible, he said.

Hartung said it’s absurd for state officials to charge governments a pharmacy fee for saving lives.

“I’m going to be down in Columbus to discuss that with them, because I think it’s bullshit,” Hartung said. “I was like, wait a minute, why are we paying the fee in the first place? We’re a government agency”

Recommended for You