Deputies now armed with drug antidote

Sheriff launches drug prevention program with help from medical community

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published May 28, 2015

 Wickersham said his department has officially initiated the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in response to large numbers of drug-related deaths in the county. Part of this program means equipping his deputies with an antidote that counteracts the effects of many opioid-based narcotics.

Wickersham said his department has officially initiated the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in response to large numbers of drug-related deaths in the county. Part of this program means equipping his deputies with an antidote that counteracts the effects of many opioid-based narcotics.

Photo by Julie Snyder

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MACOMB COUNTY — The first step is saving a life. The second step is making sure that life is lived healthy and to the fullest extent through ongoing recovery and support.

During a May 27 media event at the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement officials and members of the medical community introduced a plan that, if those vital first steps are successful, the number of crimes and the amount of drugs on the streets could ultimately be diminished immensely.

Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said his department has officially initiated an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program in response to an alarming number of drug-related deaths in the county. Part of this program means equipping his deputies with an antidote that counteracts the effect of many opioid-based narcotics.

He said that on May 6, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office began to provide its deputies with naloxone. Known by its brand name, Narcan, naloxone can reverse the effects of narcotics such as heroin and OxyContin if administered in a timely manner.

“We’ve had 16 overdoses in the county this year,” Wickersham said. “That’s far too many.”

The sheriff said Michigan legislation now provides that trained officers may carry and administer naloxone. Currently, 81 deputies have been provided the harmless drug; it’s only use is to knock out the effects of harmful and addictive narcotics.

Naloxone is administered through a nasal spray, and, according to Jerry Grieb, assistant medical director for Henry Ford Macomb  Hospital, it takes approximately two minutes to take effect.

“Many times a person who has overdosed, the breathing is very shallow,” said Grieb, who also volunteers as a physician for the Macomb County SWAT. “That’s all you need for it to work.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths involving heroin more than tripled nationally between 2007 (2,402) and 2013 (8,260). In Michigan, fatal overdoses increased from 271 between 1999 and 2002 to 728 between 2010 and 2012, with Macomb County leading in the number of fatal overdoses with 202.

Anthony Colucci, medical director at Henry Ford Macomb, said addiction to heroin often starts with prescription drugs. He said heroin is cheaper to come by on the streets.

That’s why officials are trying to get doctors and dentists to closely monitor the drugs they prescribe to combat potential addiction before it happens.

They are also working to improve treatment efforts.

Judge Linda Davis, from 41-B District Court in Clinton Township and president of FAN (Families Against Narcotics), said that through programs like this as well as Operation RX, the number of prescription drug addictions and fatal overdoses in the county are expected to decline.

“Part of what we’re trying to do here through this cooperative effort in the county is educate the public about addiction so they understand the necessity of bringing them back to life and not just letting them die,” she said. “This is a problem that is huge.”

The Sheriff’s Office put naloxone to the test the night of May 26 when deputies responded to the scene of a man unconscious in Mount Clemens.

Wickersham said the man was a known heroin user, and deputies were prepared. Within minutes of spraying the Narcan into each of the man’s nasal passages, he was conscious.

“Within two weeks, we have our first save using this drug,” he said. “Our job is to protect people and also to save lives no matter what people think of these individuals using the drugs. If people are going to use, if they are going to OD, we want to do everything we can to save them.”

Wickersham said the Narcan kits cost his office approximately $4,000 and were paid for with drug forfeiture funds. Narcan can also be purchased by prescription.

For more information about FAN, go to www.familiesagainst narcotics.org.

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