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October 20, 2015

Allentown police not adopting anti-overdose drug - yet

Despite Lehigh County program and widespread adoption, department is waiting to see effectiveness

While several Pennsylvania and South Jersey communities are equipping their police officers with the anti-overdose drug naloxone to combat heroin addiction, one city's police department seems hesitant to carry it.

According to the Huffington Post, Lehigh County Distrcit Attorney James Martin started a program that hands out free naxolone kits to police, but the Allentown department hasn't accepted the offer. More from the Post:

Martin told The Huffington Post that the excuse he was given was that it would be too complicated to move naloxone kits from one vehicle to another during shift changes.
“It’s not very complicated,” Martin said. “They just don’t want to do it. Every other police department in the country is doing it without any logistical problems that I’m aware of.”

A Morning Call report earlier this month found that Lehigh County had already passed last year's total number of overdose deaths – 84 – by the end of September.

The newspaper also cites Martin's frustration with Allentown police for not utilizing the drug, also known by the brand name Narcan, and a response from the department's chief as to why the program hasn't been adopted.

"I'm disgusted with Allentown's response to this," [Martin] said.
Allentown police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said his department had yet to make a decision on the matter. Before committing, the department is awaiting additional information about how the district attorney's program would work, he said.

The Morning Call writes the drug's effectiveness is "not in question," a claim backed up by medical professionals.

While Allentown is waiting to catch on due to logistical concerns, the drug, which reverses the effects of heroin to allow a user's vital functions to return during an overdose, has found more widespread use elsewhere.  

In Camden County, for example, more than 100 lives have been saved by police who responded to individuals unconscious from overdose.

Because of the drug's effectiveness and its availability in Pennsylvania after the passing of Act 139, many Philadelphia suburbs have made it accessible to police and first responders, including Bucks, Berks and Montgomery counties.