Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Combating Heroin: State Parole Offices Now Equipped with Life-Saving Naloxone

    Naloxone has been in the news a lot lately. During the last several weeks, Upper Providence Police Chief Mark Toomey recognized officers for administering naloxone, which counters the effects of opioids, and saving several lives.

    Sgt. Robert Solorio and Officer Scott Reynolds were recently commended for administering naloxone at a Collegeville restaurant where a man was experiencing a heroin overdose. Officer Andrew Parkins and Cpl. Jason Gerhart previously were recognized for administering naloxone to a woman experiencing an opioid overdose in a Mont Clare apartment and Officer Shea Johnson was recognized for administering naloxone to save a man overdosing on heroin in Oaks, according to reports in The Mercury.
    Naloxone, also known by brand names “Narcan” or “Evzio,” is a prescription medicine that rapidly reverses heroin and other opioid overdoses.

    Local police departments and prosecutors appear to be doing everything they can to attack the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse, including carrying naloxone, sponsoring prescription drug take-back programs, and prosecuting so-called “pill mill” doctors who over-prescribe or illegally distribute medications that lead to addictions. Officials have said people often become addicted to powerful painkillers that are prescribed and then go looking for a cheaper alternative, such as heroin, when they can no longer obtain the prescription or it becomes too expensive.
    In recent weeks, Gov. Tom Wolf announced state police would soon be equipped with the life-saving drug, naloxone.

    Now comes word from Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole Acting Chairman John R. Tuttle that all board offices have been supplied with the life-saving opioid overdose reversal antidote and all field supervision staff have been trained in the administration of the important anti-overdose drug.
    “Our agents supervise offenders with heroin and other addictions and at times may encounter an emergency situation with a parolee,” said Tuttle. “The availability of this prescription drug equips our agents to potentially save a life.”

    A naloxone kit is now available in each board office across the state, officials said in a news release. Agents who are part of the Board’s Fugitive Apprehension Search Team (FAST) and the Street Crimes Units are mandated to carry the life-saving drug.
    “Our FAST and Street Crimes Units work in tandem with law enforcement and may be first on the scene of an overdose,” Tuttle said. “Agents who have heroin addicts on their caseload may choose to carry the drug, and, importantly, they can educate family members about this important lifesaving resource that is available in their community.”

    Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals than those involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents, according to the news release issued by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. In 2013, approximately 2,400 Pennsylvanians died from a drug overdose, officials said.
    According to a September 2014 report from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania — a bipartisan legislative agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that advocates for the state’s rural and small communities — overdose deaths from heroin and other opioids, including prescription painkillers, in Pennsylvania have increased by 470 percent over the past two decades, and that throughout the past five years, such overdoses have claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Pennsylvanians.
    Additionally, the report stated, more adult Pennsylvanians age 20 to 44 are dying annually from overdoses than motor vehicle accidents, and an estimated 34,000 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17 are trying heroin for the first time each year as the price of the drug declines and its availability increases.

    In November 2014, Act 139 or “David’s Law,” a measure named for Upper Chichester resident David Massi, who died of a heroin overdose, took effect and made naloxone available to law enforcement, first responders, family members, friends or other persons in a position to assist an individual at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose.

Kudos to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole for being the latest agency to implement a program that will likely save more lives.

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