San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies will become the first law enforcement agency in California to carry a life-saving medication as they respond to 911 calls.
Narcan, also known as naloxone, is designed to prevent a drug overdose, and since more than 300 San Diegans are expected to die from heroin or prescription opiate overdoses this year, the sheriff’s department is at the forefront of a national effort to reduce those deaths.
Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced he wants all first responders – including law enforcement – to carry Narcan, something paramedics have used for years.
A number of East Coast police departments have implemented the use of Narcan, but the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will be the biggest agency in the nation to approve the drug.
UC San Diego researcher Peter Davidson explained Narcan comes in a small kit with an applicator to create a nasal spray.
A squirt in each nostril, like a flu vaccine, puts the medication in the bloodstream. It quickly interrupts the opiate response, which restores the addict’s ability to breath and increases the heart rate.
“The deaths were rising, and it was really at epidemic levels,” said Sheriff’s Capt. James Bovet when asked about overdoses.
He said Davidson helped persuade his department to consider having all deputies carry a Narcan bag while on patrol.
The department will test the product as early as this summer in the Santee, Lakeside and rural El Cajon areas, where emergency response times can be longer.
In those places, deputies often arrive at emergencies before paramedics.
“If sheriff’s deputies get there a few minutes -- even a few seconds – before and can administer a life-saving dose of Narcan, why wouldn’t we be a part of that?” said Bovet.
Gretchen Burns Bergman, a drug reform advocate, has two sons who have struggled with drug addiction.
She has heard people write off drug addicts and say, "They chose that. Let them die."
But she believes every life is worth saving, even if a person chose to do the drugs in the first place.
“Absolutely. Nobody in our society is expendable. We shouldn’t have become a throw-away society,” said Bergman.
Bovet agrees. He became interested in Narcan in 2010, when seven San Diego teens died of opiate overdoses.
No deputy wants to see anyone die – for any reason – Bovet said.
“With Narcan, they’ll be able to administer a dose very easily, very quickly, when the symptomology is right, and perhaps save a life right away,” said Bovet.