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Police adopt proactive way of reversing drug overdoses

BERLIN– Facing growing concerns over heroin and opioid abuse in the area, police have adopted a proactive approach in treating potential overdoses.
Pfc. Jessica Collins received certification to administer the anti-overdose drug Naloxone last month. Also known as Narcan, the opioid antagonist is used to treat the life-threatening depression of the central nervous and respiratory system associated with overdose.
“Naloxone will go toward the respiratory system and kind of release it,” Collins said. “It reverses the effects of the overdose and it does it very quickly, so it will give you time for the EMS to get there or to get them to the hospital where they can provide further care.”
Developed in the 1960s, the nasally administered drug can treat a number of opioid-related overdoses including morphine, oxycodone and Vicodin.
“EMS has been using this for a while,” Collins said. “Because Maryland has seen an uprise in heroin and other opioid overdoses they wanted to get out there and allow law enforcement personnel to carry it as well.”
In May 2013, legislation authorized the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to train individuals to administer naloxone to reverse opioid-related overdose when medical services are not immediately available.
“Maryland Mental Health and Hygiene developed a program to try to reverse the effects (of overdose) and get Naloxone out there,” Collins said. “People can take a course like I did through Worcester County.
“I wanted to go and see what their program was when they started offering it,” Collins continued. “It’s a four-hour class, and they give you a certificate that you can carry it. You can take it to the pharmacy and they’ll give you two vials of the nasal spray.”
Naloxone boasts little-to-no lasting side effects.
“If they’re not having an opioid overdose administering Naloxone is not going to hurt them, cause any side effects or provide any harm to their body,” Collins said.
Collins hopes to train additional law enforcement staff in the Berlin Police Department.
“It’s just filling out some paperwork, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that within a couple months and I’ll be able to help the health department train others,” she said. “Right now Worcester County is doing a great job with the program. They teach you everything step-by-step and even do rescue breathing and some CPR techniques that you’ll need for it.
“The nice thing about Berlin is our EMS service and our Fire Department is outstanding,” Collins continued. “They have outstanding response times – they’re to us very quickly if we ever call them and need them – but the benefit of carrying Naloxone is if we do happen come across someone who is overdosing it’s not going to hurt to administer it. We’re trying to save somebody’s life – that’s our ultimate goal.”
Opioid-related cases were sharply on the rise at the beginning of the year, although Collins said instances of heroin and other opioids had declined in recent months.
“In Berlin we haven’t seen a lot of overdoses lately, but we’d rather prevent it and have a proactive approach to it than to all of the sudden have an officer out and they be face-to-face with an overdose knowing that we could have potentially given that officer more resources to save them,” she said. “Maryland, in general, has seen a rise in opiate overdoses – not just heroin, but oxycodone and the abuse of prescription pills that are opiates.
“There was some bad heroin going around (in the beginning of the year) in the western and northern part of area in Wicomico and right on the line with Delaware,” Collins continued. “It raised a concern for us because we have 113 and 50. People that abuse drugs still go on vacation, and with us being right on that corridor we just want to be prepared and to make sure that we have all of our resources and all of our means that we could possibly have to prevent something like this from happening.”