SPECIAL REPORT: Why Narcan is becoming part of the police force

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. / BROWNSVILLE, Ky. (WBKO) -- Highlighted in parts of Kentucky, the national opioid epidemic is killing thousands of Americans.

It doesn't appear to be a huge issue in South Central Kentucky... yet.

"What's happened over the past several years, heroin and other opioids are heading to Bowling Green," says Ronnie Ward of the Bowling Green Police Department

Other parts of the state, such as Northern Kentucky have been ravaged.

"If it follows the same path as what other drugs have, it's coming," Ward continues.

Narcan, or naloxone, is a drug that can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

"We always have the Narcan on us," says Ward, "We carry it on our uniform all the time, and so we're prepared at any point in time we need to administer it."

Sometimes, police officers can easily come into contact with certain types of opioids that could put them in grave danger.

"We've read stories and did some research on other police departments, officers have literally just touched fentanyl," explains Ward, "and in some cases some people have died."

"Incidental exposure to some of these drugs the tiniest little amount, the size of a pencil head could be fatal if you touch it on your skin," says Edmonson County Sheriff Shane Doyle. "If we can't perform the job then we can't help people, and so we have to watch out for our safety so that we can continue to provide the help that they need."

For smaller police departments like the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office, budgeting for something like Narcan is no easy task, and while they'd like to equip their officers with it, right now it's just not possible.

The price of Narcan can be expensive. Other police departments have been given grants from different organizations to make it happen.

Of the 22 police forces contacted for this story, 12 of them equip some or all of their officers with Narcan:

BOWLING GREEN P.D.
BARREN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
GLASGOW P.D.
SIMPSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
FRANKLIN P.D.
ALLEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
SCOTTSVILLE P.D.
RUSSELLVILLE P.D.
KENTUCKY STATE POLICE (SOME)
BUTLER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
TOMPKINSVILLE P.D.

Three of the agencies say they've had to administer Narcan. In Bowling Green it was administered to an officer exposed to opioids in the line of duty. At the Allen County Sheriff's Office and the Scottsville Police Department it has been used on overdose victims.

Of the other South Central Kentucky agencies contacted that don't equip officers with Narcan, the reasoning behind it is usually along the same lines: either lack of funding or low necessity.

However, almost all of them said they could see it happening in the future, because they know how bad the opioid crisis has been in other areas of the state.

"We're very fortunate that we're not one of those areas right now," says Sheriff Doyle. "It seems that things kind of trickle into our county a little bit later than they do the more metropolitan areas. We do expect it to come at some point. Obviously, we're hopeful that it won't, but we'd whole lot rather be safe than sorry on that."

"Obviously we want to be prepared for that," says Ronnie Ward, "and if we saw an increase in that, we would prepare for that financially ahead of time as well, but we're staying on top of that. We want to watch that and see what type of problems we're having and what direction we think it's going."

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, over 50,000 Americans died from overdoses last year... opioids accounting for over 20,000 of those.

That would make overdose deaths the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.



 
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