CLAYTON, Mo.—The police chief in St. Louis County wants his department to be the first in the St. Louis area—and just the third in the entire country—to carry an antidote for heroin overdoses.
Nearly 1,800 people have died from heroin and other overdoses in the Metro area since 2007. Typically, officers can only radio for medical help and hope the ambulance brings the drug naloxone on time. The medicine, also known as Narcan, is administered from a nasal sprayer.
Chief Tim Fitch estimates that his officers beat ambulances to medical emergencies at least 30 percent of time. He says that in many cases, a few minutes can be the difference between life and death.
“Heroin stops your breathing,” Fitch said. “In that case, seconds really do matter.”
If the St. Louis County medical director okays the idea, Fitch hopes two doses of Narcan will be in each police cruiser by January 2014.
While other St. Louis officials warn of the liability that could come out of this, the police chief said this could help for more than just heroin overdoses.
“It is the kind of medicine that won’t hurt you no matter what you overdose on,” Fitch said. “So, if the officer gets it wrong and it wasn’t heroin, it was really cocaine, it was really something else, there’s no harm from that.”
Fitch met in mid-October with the National Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse to lobby for support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.