In another concrete response to the area’s heroin epidemic, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson today announced funding for the Westshore Enforcement Bureau’s (WEB) Nasal Narcan program. Narcan, the commercial name for Naloxone, is a medication that can reverse an overdose caused by an opioid drug, such as heroin or prescription pain medications. When administered during an overdose, Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and quickly restores breathing.
“It’s essential that we equip our patrol officers and personnel with Naloxone, and I applaud the Westshore Enforcement Bureau for their commitment and collaboration on this life saving effort,” said County Executive FitzGerald. “The Westshore Enforcement Bureau, Dr. Gilson, and I will continue to seek out ways to save the lives of those affected by this heroin epidemic.”
Prior to 2014, only EMS and Emergency rooms could legally administer Naloxone. Research done by Dr. Gilson and the Heroin Review Committee showed that while EMS responded to over 90% of heroin overdose deaths, the administration of naloxone only happened about 22% of the time; that it was nearly always too late to even attempt naloxone reversal.
“We are happy to partner with the Westshore Law Enforcement Bureau to expand access to this life-saving antidote and their support is greatly appreciated. We are looking forward to hearing from other communities around the county who are developing similar programs,” said Dr. Gilson. “Seconds count in saving lives and we know this has the potential to work. I thank Executive FitzGerald for his committed leadership to this vital work.”
The Medical Examiner will award about 50% of the total cost of $8,740 to the Westshore Enforcement Bureau (WEB), which will cover the cost of 230 Naloxone kits. Each kit will include a single dose with nasal atomizer. The Westshore Enforcement Bureau will also work in conjunction with Parma and Parma Heights to provide 150 additional kits. The Westshore Enforcement Bureau consists of the following municipalities: Bay Village, Fairview Park, Lakewood, North Olmsted, Rocky River, and Westlake.
The Medical Examiner is also discussing plans to offer similar funding to the Southeast Area Law Enforcement Task Force (SEALE) and the Suburban Police Anti-crime Network (SPAN).
Additionally, the Sheriff’s Department will be training approximately 57 deputies in Narcotics, Warrant Division, Impact Unit, Downtown Services Unit (DSU), Civil Division, and Transport Division on how to administer Naloxone. The units are the most likely to encounter an individual experiencing an overdose.
“Heroin knows no borders. Naloxone is proven to save lives. We welcome this opportunity, and these tools, to combat heroin in our neighborhoods,” said Sheriff Bova.
Naloxone kits will be distributed to equip all patrol officers, along with a limited number of departmental personnel. Project DAWN, which previously was the only prescribing program for naloxone to opiate patients seeking help, has reportedly reversed over 61 possible overdoses in Cuyahoga County.
For more information about the County’s response to the heroin epidemic, go to http://medicalexaminer.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/CC-HeroinInitiative.aspx .