Spokane to equip more of its police with opioid antidote

by


More police in Spokane will start carrying a drug that can instantly revive a person who has overdosed on opioids such as heroin and prescription pain killers.

Starting next week, the Medical Reserve Corps in Spokane will supply the Spokane County Sheriff's Office with 150 kits of naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of opioids. The MRC will also train deputies to administer the drug by spraying it into the nose of an individual in need.

The Spokane Police Department began carrying the opioid antidote earlier this year, and in July announced its first successful use. Police in Pullman also began carrying naloxone earlier this year, the Spokesman-Review reported.

The Spokane Fire Department has administered naloxone more than 1,780 times since 2014, according to Chief Brian Schaeffer. Firefighters in Spokane have carried the drug with them to emergency situations for more than 30 years, Schaeffer says.

Efforts to equip first responders with naloxone, also known by its brand name, Narcan, indicate that local authorities recognize its effectiveness in combating the rise in opioid-related overdoses.

Although there are efforts to combat an "opioid epidemic" nationwide, Spokane has not seen opioid-related deaths spike to the same levels as other areas of the country, local officials agree.

"Opioid overdoses are ticking up, but meth and other drugs are still a bigger problem in Spokane," says Kim Papich, spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District. "In the majority of scenarios we are seeing a multi-drug use. So many times with overdose or death we see a dangerous combination of drugs."

The Health District receives naloxone kits through a grant from the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the Center for Opioid Safety Education and distributes them through its needle exchange program. Papich estimates that more than 40 people have been revived so far thanks to the use of naloxone.

Naloxone kits are also available for purchase over the counter at pharmacies in Washington and Idaho. However, the drug is only effective for opioid-related overdoses, Papich adds. There is not a similar antidote for a methamphetamine overdose.

Accidental drug overdoses contributed to 115 deaths in Spokane County in 2016, up from 82 in 2015 and 64 in 2014, according to the Spokane County Medical Examiner's annual report. About 74 percent of those deaths involved opioids.

This post has been updated. A previous version incorrectly stated that the Spokane Fire Department has carried naloxone since 2014. SFD has carried the drug for more than 30 years.