Proposal would let police administer drug to reverse effects of heroin overdose

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comSeptember 13, 2013 

Heroin Overdose Antidote

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an antidote for opiate drug overdoses. This tube is used as a nasal mist.


The executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy says he is working on proposed legislation that would allow police statewide to administer a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.

Van Ingram said he is in "the discussion phases" of crafting legislation for the 2014 General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Lexington police are developing a protocol to train officers to administer Naloxone, the generic name for the prescription drug Narcan, if and when state laws permit it.

"We are moving forward with a training program in the likelihood that the state passes clear legislation to enable police officers to carry it," Lexington Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason said.

Ingram said police officials have told him that current law does not state clearly that police officers and some other first responders can administer the drug.

Lexington officials formed a task force that convened in March to combat the spike in fatal heroin overdoses in 2013.

There were 22 fatal heroin-related overdoses in Lexington 2012. In late August, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn said there had been 30 fatal heroin-related overdoses so far in 2013, and two suspected heroin overdose deaths were still being investigated.

Narcan has been used by Lexington paramedics and officials at the Fayette County jail to revive people who have overdosed on heroin or other opiates. Mason has previously estimated that at least 12 lives have been saved from overdoses because the Lexington fire department showed up with Narcan.

Ingram said it would be helpful for law enforcement officers in smaller communities to be able to carry the drug because many communities don't have a crew of paramedics.

A law, signed April 4 by Gov. Steve Beshear, expanded physicians' prescribing authority of Naloxone.

The legislation says that a doctor can prescribe Naxolone to a third party who can then administer it to a person in the event of an overdose.

That person must then contact a public safety agent after administering the drug, according to the bill.

Since that law was passed this year, Ingram said law enforcement officials from Lexington and Northern Kentucky have contacted him for direction on whether police officers also can administer Narcan.

"We're hoping to get a bill in this 2014 session that makes it clear that it's appropriate for doctors to prescribe to first responders," Ingram said Thursday.

State Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, who introduced the 2013 legislation, said Friday that he intended for the law to cover police officers and other first responders.

Police officers, said Burch, are as likely to come upon people who had overdosed as paramedics.

Burch said that if the language is unclear in the current law, it should be fixed with a new regulation or law.

"It was meant to save lives," Burch said of his legislation.

Narcan can be administered three ways: intravenously, by an injection or by using a nasal mist. If Lexington police officers administer Naloxone, it will most likely be through the use of a nasal atomizer, Mason previously said.

Recently, officials in the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy said their office and others were working to identify and address gaps in training, access, or use of Naloxone by first responders.

According to the President's 2013 National Drug Control Strategy report, the Quincy, Mass., police department trained its officers to use Naloxone in 2010. The program has been credited with reversing more than 100 potentially fatal drug overdoses, the report said.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears

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