Wis. police gain access to Narcan

By next month, all 39 of the department's sergeants will have been trained in how to administer the drug


By Nico Savidge
The Wisconsin State Journal

MADISON, Wis. — Most of the Madison Police Department’s sergeants are now equipped to treat people overdosing from opiate drugs such as heroin with a potentially life-saving medication, after a training session on Wednesday.

Two-thirds of the department’s 39 sergeants have been trained in how to administer the anti-overdose drug Narcan, which police credit with saving scores of lives in Madison alone. The rest will be trained early next month.

Narcan, a brand-name form of the medication naloxone, binds to opiate receptors in the brain, reversing an overdose almost instantly, said Madison police Officer Carrie Hemming, who led the training.

“It is a very magical drug in some ways,” Hemming said.

As Madison and other Wisconsin cities grapple with a rise in the abuse of opiates, including heroin and prescription drugs such as oxycodone, public health officials have put an emphasis on getting naloxone into more peoples’ hands to prevent deadly overdoses.

Federal officials have encouraged law enforcement in particular to carry the drug, as they are often at the scene of those overdoses.

Madison’s department is one of the first in Wisconsin to give naloxone to officers, according to a North Carolina health organization that tracks what law enforcement agencies carry it. Authorities in Racine County and the village of Jackson also have naloxone.

The Dane County Sheriff’s Office is considering a naloxone program as well, and Hemming said one of its officials attended Wednesday’s training.

A state law signed earlier this year loosened restrictions on who could administer naloxone, opening the door for police to start carrying the medication, Hemming said.

The department is beginning its Narcan program by giving patrol sergeants a form of the drug that is administered via nasal spray. Hemming, an EMT and licensed practical nurse, also will carry it.

Sergeants left their training with a kit of naloxone, which they are to keep either on their person or in squad cars.

Emergency medical crews also carry the medication and frequently use it to revive people suspected of opiate overdoses. Hemming said the Madison Fire Department administers Narcan about 20 times per month, on average.

Police officials would ultimately like to equip all of the department’s officers with the medication, but the price tag to buy hundreds of the doses — an estimated $11,000 — is too steep at this point, Hemming said.

“If it was a perfect world, we’d have every officer have a dose,” she said.

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©2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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