Police are very often the first responder on the scenes of overdoses. Every second counts when it comes to saving a person who overdoses, and officers would be able to save lives if only they have the right equipment overdose kits for the administration of Narcan, wrote Senator Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence), in a letter sent today to Providence Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr.
The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association is considering a request from public health officials for municipal police officers to begin carrying naloxone, also known by the trade name Narcan, a prescription medication that reverses the effects of overdoses of opiates, including heroin and many commonly abused prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. State Police Supt. Col. Steven ODonnell recently announced that all state troopers would soon be trained in administering the drug and would begin carrying it, and Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine has asked that municipal police do so as well.
Senator Jabour wrote to Colonel Clements today to express his support for the measure as a means to combat the epidemic, which had claimed 45 people in the state this year as of last week, twice the usual number by this time of year. Senator Jabour said he has heard from numerous concerned constituents who believe officers should be equipped with Narcan.
Police officers are exactly the type of people who should be administering Narcan, because they are likely to encounter overdose victims, they are accustomed to maintaining their calm in emergency situations and they are devoted to maintaining public safety, he said in the letter.
He said he understands that outfitting every officer will come with a price the drug retails for about $25 a dose as an injectable and $40 for a nasal spray but he is confident that a way could be found to finance its purchase, perhaps with grants, discounts and assistance from retailers. Walgreens has worked with the state to allow any person to buy the drug without their own prescription at any of its 26 Rhode Island stores under a collaborative practice agreement. That agreement allows an addiction specialist at Miriam Hospital, Dr. Josiah Rich, to be the standing prescriber for anyone who wants to buy the drug, either for immediate use or as a precaution, for themselves or anyone else.
A copy of the letter was also forwarded to the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, which could take up the request at its meeting next month.