SPD bike cops get naloxone to deploy in drug-overdose cases

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SPD bike cops get naloxone to deploy in drug-overdose cases

Heroin, painkiller deaths are focus; UW expert enlisted to study whether roll-out makes difference
Brian Donohue

In an effort to decrease drug-related deaths, the Seattle Police Department is equipping 60 bike officers to administer nasal-spray naloxone, which if given in time can reverse the effects of an overdose of heroin or prescription opioid painkiller.  

Seattle Police Department
Police will be able to administer naloxone spray in 9-1-1 reported overdoses. They'll also hand out cards to let drug users know they are protected by Washington's Good Samaritan Law in the event they witness an overdose.
picture of naloxone spray and info card about Washington's Good Samaritan Law

The initiative starts today and will last six to eight months, after which University of Washington drug-abuse expert Caleb Banta-Green will evaluate whether it had a meaningful impact on overdose victims. 

“If the person has a pulse and is breathing, even barely, naloxone can usually bring them back in a few minutes.” 

Police officers across the United States have begun to carry naloxone in response to the spike in heroin use. The tactic was recommended in 2013 by the Office of National Drug Control Policy; Banta-Green was among the advisers to the office’s drug-policystrategies. 

“I think it’s very worthwhile to evaluate whether it plausibly improves outcomes – and if so, what can we learn about situations or specific locations to target interventions in the future,” he said. “It also helps us understand how such a program functions, to help other jurisdictions implement and evaluate their own rollouts.”

The main question to be explored with this rollout is whether police with the drug can improve “save” rates of Medic One, one of the nation’s quickest-responding and most effective paramedic forces.  

Banta-Green will look to answer whether the police with naloxone improve the overdose "save" rate of Seattle's Medic One.
picture of Caleb Banta-Green

Banta-Green will review response records in which naloxone is deployed to discern what happens during 9-1-1 reported overdoses and to determine “whether police administering the drug actually make a person return to consciousness more quickly than waiting for paramedics.” 

Police also will have cards to hand out that outline Washington’s Good Samaritan Overdose law, which encourages people to call 9-1-1 if they witness someone having an overdose, without fear of being charged for having or using a small amount of drugs.

Banta-Green also made clear that the initiative, well-intended as it is, sidesteps an important 
fact: Nonprofit community programs across the country have trouble getting cheap naloxone to give to heroin users – who, he notes, have reversed far more overdoses than police officers have.