One of the officers used a drug known as Narcan to revive the young woman, giving it to her as a mist in her nose, as he’d been trained. Within a few seconds, Uyek was responsive. She was combative, and actually tried to bite the officer who had just saved her, but she soon calmed down and was led away.
The drug that may have saved her has also been used to save other lives in Lorain, which is using a new pilot program. The Erie County Sheriff’s Office is now working to deploy the program here, as soon as lawmakers authorize it.
Sheriff Paul Sigsworth has been working with the Erie County Health Department, and he’s also making information available to local police chiefs.
“We’re in the business to try to save lives,” Sigsworth said. “Anything we can do to assist someone who has overdosed on these opiates, it’s something we want to do.”
Heroin and prescription painkiller opioids, heavily abused in recent years, have been a rising cause of death in Ohio. From 1999 to 2011, death from unintentional drug overdoses rose 440 percent in Ohio, according to the state health department. Unintentional drug overdoses of all kinds killed 1,765 people in 2011, with prescription painkiller abuse driving the trend.
State lawmakers approved the law to set up the pilot program in Lorain County, where police and deputies can now administer Narcan, also known as Naxolone, to overdose victims in life-threatening situations.
Lorain police Detective Mike Gidich said officers have been carrying Narcan since Oct. 12. So far they’ve used it to revive 14 people.
On one recent weekend, Nov. 16-17, police dealt with 23 drug overdoses, and they used Narcan in eight of those cases, Lorain County Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh said.
Three people died, although without the Narcan the toll likely would have been worse, he said.
A bill by state Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott — House Bill 170— aims to allow Narcan use statewide by law enforcement officers and relatives of addicts. The House approved it unanimously in October; it’s now awaiting action in the Senate. State Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
Sigsworth said he has worked with Erie County health commissioner Pete Schade to make training available for law enforcement in Erie County as soon as it’s legal for them to carry Narcan.
“Pete’s been very cooperative,” Sigsworth said.
When it becomes available, Narcan will be distributed not only to deputies in the field, but also to corrections officers in the jail, as they sometimes take in people who have consumed illegal drugs before they were arrested. Sigsworth said he talked about Narcan at a recently monthly meeting of the county’s police chiefs.
“The chiefs seemed very receptive to it,” Sigsworth said.