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Va. police to carry Narcan

Statewide, deaths from heroin overdoses increased from 239 in 2013 to 342 last year

By Jeff Branscome
The Free Lance-Star

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. — Spotsylvania County deputies will soon be among the growing number of law-enforcement officers equipped with naloxone—an antidote that counteracts opioid overdoses.

The Sheriff’s Office has been awarded a $5,000 federal grant to purchase 67 packs of the drug, a prescription nasal spray that can reverse overdoses of heroin and narcotic painkillers such as fentanyl and oxycodone. At a cost of just $75, each pack delivers two potentially life-saving doses, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday to accept the grant.

“As first responders, we have an obligation and duty to save lives when we can,” Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Capt. Troy Skebo wrote in an email. “It is our goal to give the individual a chance to better themselves while educating and promoting an awareness to this epidemic.”

Statewide, deaths from heroin overdoses increased from 239 in 2013 to 342 last year, and the Virginia Department of Health expects another spike this year. The epidemic inspired a law last year that makes it easier to obtain naloxone, which medics have carried for years.

As of June, seven people had died this year from heroin overdoses in Spotsylvania. That equals the total number of heroin fatalities in the county from 2007–12, according to state data.

All of Spotsylvania’s patrol deputies have been trained to administer the opioid antidote, Skebo said. Court deputies and narcotics detectives, who also will have access to the drug, will receive the training in early November.

A state law that took effect last year protects deputies—and others trained to administer the drug—from civil and criminal liability.

Joseph Sposa, deputy chief of Spotsylvania’s Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management, said medics and firefighters have been outfitted with naloxone—also known by its brand name Narcan—for a number of years. “It has been used with quite a bit of success, and unfortunately it has been on a frequent basis,” he said.

In Stafford County, nearly 100 deputies carry Narcan. At least six people have died from heroin overdoses in Stafford so far this year.

Police departments in Fredericksburg and the town of Culpeper also equipped their officers with the antidote this year. Fredericksburg Capt. Rick Pennock said the drug had been administered fives times in which it “appeared to save lives.”

The number of deaths from opioids and heroin has outpaced motor-vehicle fatalities in Virginia, according to Dr. Robert Fines, an emergency room doctor and Stafford’s operational medical director. In the Fredericksburg region, 75 people died from opiate overdoses last year, compared with 59 fatalities in car crashes.

Copyright 2016 The Free Lance-Star

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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