August 02, 2015
A surge in regional heroin use over the past few years has not only wrecked lives, but also created frequent life or death situations for police officers who encounter individuals rendered unconscious by an overdose.
Since the state of New Jersey began equipping police officers with naloxone, under the brand name drug Narcan, officials have been able to rescue lives in far greater numbers than was previously the case. When administered as a nasal spray, Narcan can block opioid receptors in the brain within minutes and reverse the effects of an overdose.
In Camden County alone, police officers have saved the lives of 107 people through the emergency use of Narcan. Illustrating the urgency of the crisis, 7 of those rescues occurred in the course of the last month alone, according to a release from the Camden County Police Department.
In one of these cases, on July 20, two officers responded to a situation that in the past might have been beyond hope, but is now within their capacity in the line of duty.
Officers Matthew DiDomenico and Joshua Soper responded to the corner of Broadway and Chestnut Street where a man was lying in the middle of the street not breathing and blue in the face. The officers learned that the man had used heroin at which time Officer DiDomenico quickly administered Narcan. The victim regained consciousness before being taken to Cooper University Hospital for further treatment.
In 2015, there have already been 294 recorded drug overdoses in Camden, including 24 fatalities, prompting the Camden County Police Department to issue public safety alerts about purchasing narcotics in the city.
Across the state border, in February, Philadelphia police officers in the East Division received training and began using Narcan while on duty. Pennsylvania State Police then announced in April that every one of their patrol cars would be equipped with Narcan, with donations of the antidote coming from Aetna, Geisinger Health, Health Partner Plans and Highmark.
Heroin and opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, claiming 7 lives per day, according to a recent report from the State Coroners Association.