CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland police officers now have an additional tool to help with the growing opioid epidemic in Ohio.
They will now carry Narcan — two doses worth — in their cruisers to help save victims of opiate-related overdoses.
At least two people die in Cuyahoga County every day from drug overdoses. And over the past few years in Ohio, overdose deaths have grown dramatically; in just 2015 alone, the state recorded about 2,500 overdose deaths.
Officials say that number is growing.
“Nothing compares to what’s going on today,” said Dr. Eckart, assistant director of public safety, at a press conference Tuesday. “I’ve been in the business 36 years, and I haven’t seen anything like this.”
Now in Cleveland, each cruiser will be equipped with kits that contain two doses of Narcan, which officers have been trained to administer. Usually it is pretty obvious when officers come across an overdose, said Eckart, and Narcan can be used quickly.
It’s administered as a nose spray.
Eckart said Narcan does not have any negative symptoms if it’s administered to someone who hasn’t overdosed.
Officials emphasized that Narcan isn’t meant to replace EMS crews that are also called to overdose situations. But they will allow live-saving measures to begin much more quickly.
Cleveland Sgt. Timothy Maffo-Judd was the first officer in the city to use Narcan while on the job. Tuesday, he showed body camera video of the call, where a man was found slumped over in his vehicle at West 66th Street and Storer Avenue.
Maffo-Judd had Narcan in his cruiser and administered two doses to the unconscious man with help from a bystander. It took roughly nine minutes from the time the officer responded to the time the man was able to wake up and begin talking.
“Nine minutes, this gentlemen comes back and he’s moving, breathing, talking just like we wanted,” said Maffo-Judd.
Narcan is also meant as a safeguard for officers who may come into contact with opioids while responding to calls.
“Given this is such a highly toxic, highly easily spread powder…this gives them an added layer of protection for themselves…and also our K9 units,” said Eckart.
Health experts say Ohio is the epicenter of the opioid crisis with more overdose deaths than any other state.