IMPD officers to carry heroin reversal drug to combat overdoses
More people are dying from heroin addictions in Marion County than ever before. Now first responders are stepping up their response by training and equipping local police with a life-saving measure.
Starting next week, officers in the Indianapolis Metro Police Department's southwest district will learn how to use an injection to reverse heroin overdose.
Robert and Becky Gillispie live in a police district hit hard by the city's heroin epidemic.
"Yeah, they're doing it and dying over it. It's bad," said Becky Gillispie, taking an afternoon stroll from the grocery store with her husband.
"My friend just died a week ago over a heroin overdose. He died, went into a coma and died from heroin. A lot of people been dying off of that stuff," Robert chimed in.
Public Safety Director Troy Riggs calls it troubling.
"We lost 110 people last year to heroin deaths in this city," he told Eyewitness News.
On Monday, IMPD Officers in the Southwest District will start training to carry a new tool in their arsenal, this one to combat the deadly effects of heroin overdose.
It's called Narcan. It's filled with the drug Naloxone and is commonly used by medics to help reverse respiratory distress in heroin overdose patients. Indianapolis EMS is heading up the pilot program.
"I think it's a great idea," said Robert Gillispie "Give them another chance at life," he continued as he thought about his 55-year-old friend.
Nationally, deaths from heroin overdose have increased 45 percent between 2006 and 2010.
It's being called an Urgent Public Health Crisis.
"They really need to go in rehab and get help over it. They really do. It's terrible," said Becky Gillespie.
But many won't seek treatment.
That's why just a week ago, the FDA approved the first at home heroin reversal shot that can be prescribed for families of someone who might overdose on heroin or opioid pain killers like Oxycodone. It's small enough to fit in a pocket. The Evzio injection contains the drug Naloxone which can reverse the slowed-down breathing that often leads to death in a heroin overdose.
"We've seen crimes because of heroin. We also had four SWAT officers that were shot because heroin was being sold, so we're seeing that as a rising trend," said Riggs.
Police officers in New York are also using Narcan. Their kits contain two syringes.
Officers will not only be equipped to arrest high level heroin dealers, but the kits put help at their finger tips in a life-saving emergency.
"We need the community to realize that heroin is a rising problem and we have to deal with that," explained Riggs.
The Gillispies say it could make a difference in their neighborhood.
Each Narcan kit costs about $60 and has a shelf life of roughly two years. Evzio is expected to be available by prescription this summer.