Prepare officers to save lives

Published 11:31 am Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If you visit and type the word “heroin” into the search bar, the results are eye-opening. Story after story serves as evidence that the drug has gained a foothold in Shelby County, and the results have been devastating.
From all accounts from local law enforcement, heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs available, as dozens have died of overdoses in Shelby County over the past several years – some of them first-time users.
The Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force has also reported a significant increase in opioid painkiller abuse over the past several years.
During a meeting of the county’s Drug Free Coalition last week, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chris George said an average of 143 opioid pills are taken for every 100 residents in the county, which is indicative of the epidemic facing the county and much of the state.
Elsewhere in the United States, law enforcement officers have been equipped to give those who may have otherwise died of heroin or painkiller overdoses a second chance.
At last week’s Drug Free Coalition meeting, Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Kevin Turner presented information on naloxone: A drug that can almost instantly reverse the effects of what would otherwise be a fatal overdose.
Turner presented a video featuring police officers from Quincy, Mass., all of who were given naloxone to use in the field.
The officers’ testimonies on the video were amazing, as they explained how they had saved hundreds of lives since being issued naloxone applicators, which spray the substance into a victim’s nose.
According to Turner, field-issuing naloxone to law enforcement officers has not yet seen a large push in Alabama. Assistant Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee said the topic has come up at heroin abuse summits she has attended, and said the drug presents few dangers, as it does not interact with other substances that might be present in a person’s body.
If it can save lives and give some people in our community a second chance, naloxone is absolutely something every first responder in Alabama should have.

The editorial is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.