Officers Arm Against Opiate Overdose With Antidote

Tusculum Police Department officers and auxiliary officers will be among the first members of law enforcement in Greene County to carry nalaxone nasal spray, a life­saving antidote for opiate overdoses.

Other local law enforcement agencies hope to issue nalaxone to officers by the end of the year. Efforts are underway to make that happen, Greeneville police Chief Terry Cannon and Greene County Sheriff Pat Hankins said this week.

Tusculum officers received training last weekend on how to administer naloxone nasal spray on individuals suffering from a narcotics overdose. Pharmacist Alan Corley of Corley’s Pharmacy provided the training.

Corley said the training helped the officers learn to recognize opioid overdoses.

“They are often first on the scene of an overdose, and also learned how to use the naloxone nasal spray in such victims,” said Corley, who is also mayor of Tusculum.

Corley told officers that the primary cause of death in opiate overdoses is respiratory depression, “which can progress to a complete cessation of breathing and death.”

“Naloxone is widely recognized as an effective antidote for opioid respiratory depression, and may be administered by properly trained persons,” Corley said.

Recent changes in Tennessee law allow first responders such as firefighters and police officers, family members, addiction advocates and other non­medical personnel who have been properly trained to obtain naloxone rescue kits from pharmacies, Corley said.

Naloxone, marketed under the name Narcan, is kept on hand to treat individuals at high risk of an opioid overdose, including those using prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine, and illegal street drugs like heroin.

The new laws also provide “Good Samaritan” protection from liability for the administration of the Naloxone by trained persons, Corley said.

Naloxone can be administered via injection or in a nasal spray.

Nasal Spray Kits

“The nasal spray kits are just as effective as the injection, are easier for non­medical personnel to administer, and avoid needle­stick risk for ‘Good Samaritans,’” Corley said.

The naloxone kits are designed to help counteract the respiratory depression effects of narcotics for a relatively short period of time until the victim can receive appropriate emergency medical care, he added.

Corley and law enforcement officials support the availability of nalaxone to help save lives as other strategies are developed to fight the opioid abuse epidemic.

The epidemic is “a public health issue in Tennessee, recognized by the governor, the Tennessee legislature, the Department of Health and others,” Corley said.

After the training on Oct. 29 was completed, Corley presented Tusculum police Chief Danny Greene with a naloxone Intranasal Kit for each cruiser in the department, compliments of Corley’s Pharmacy. “Once Chief Greene develops an appropriate written policy in the next few days for the kit’s use, these potentially life­saving kits will be in Tusculum Police Department’s cruisers and available for use by officers,” Corley said.

OTHER AGENCIES

In 2014, there were 19 deaths in Greene County directly attributed to overdose deaths, with additional deaths likely not reported as overdoses. Based on Greene County’s population, the fatality count translates to a rate of 27.8 per 100,000 people, well exceeding Tennessee’s overdose death rate of 19.3 per 100,000.

If naloxone is administered quickly, it can counter overdose effects, usually within two minutes, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration.

While local EMS personnel carry naloxone on their ambulances, officers with the Greeneville Police Department and Greene County Sheriff’s Department currently do not.

A grassroots effort among a group of downtown Greeneville churches is working to help equip law enforcement officers with nalaxone.

Cannon and Hankins have met with the group, which seeks a grant to help pay for the kits. Cannon said this week it may be too late this year to secure a grant, but funds are being raised through other means.

Knoxville officers have used naloxone many times to save people’s lives since 2015, Cannon said.

“We’d like to do it here,” he said. “Not only can we save somebody else’s life, with all the new highpowered drugs it can save a police officer’s life.”

Drugs like Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, can be released through the skin and even trace amounts have a deadly effect on first responders unintentionally exposed to the drug, Cannon said.

Hankins said the sheriff’s department is close to obtaining nalaxone kits and training a first group of deputies to administer the nasal spray.

“I would say within 30 days we will start carrying it,” Hankins said. “We’ve actually got money now for 30 doses.”

Hankins said he will confer with a sheriff in North Carolina whose department already uses naloxone kits. The Elizabethton Police Department has also had success using nalaxone on drug overdose cases, he said.

Naloxone must be kept in a controlled temperature environment of between 55 and 75 degrees to ensure it does not lose potency, so the kits cannot be left in patrol cars or other places where they will be exposed to extreme temperatures.

Hankins said naloxone can be a life­saver in large rural counties like Greene. “It would be more beneficial for our county. We might get there 15 minutes (before EMS),” Hankins said. “It could make the difference in saving a person.”

CLOSE TO INTRODUCTION

Statewide, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers currently do not carry naloxone but the THP “is strongly researching” the idea, a spokesman said this week in an email response to questions.

“We are considering first implementing this with our Interdiction Plus troopers and our K­9 handling troopers before issuing it to our additional troopers,” Lt. Bill Miller said.

Mark Honeycutt, one of the citizens involved in the Greene County church­based effort, said in a recent interview that young people in particular need an “opportunity to lead a useful, productive life, and I believe the opiate antidote can offer that opportunity.”

“I believe saving lives that have found themselves at the mercy of opiate addiction should be at the forefront of our thoughts in our community,” Honeycutt said.

A temporary fund has been set up at St. James Episcopal Church. Proceeds will be distributed to the city and county.

One dose of Narcan costs $37.50. A two­dose kit of Narcan costs $75, and there are 100 patrol cars in the city and county, according to the church­based group.

The cost for the project, which would allow Narcan to be carried by officers for 18 to 24 months, is $7,500.

Contributors to the project will receive an acknowledgment for tax deduction purposes.

Checks can be made payable to: Narcan Fund@St. James Church, 105 West Church St., Greeneville, TN 37745.

Tusculum Mayor Alan Corley, owner of Corley’s Pharmacy, recently conducted a training session for Tusculum police and auxiliary officers to administer a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdoses.

Tusculum Mayor Alan Corley, owner of Corley’s Pharmacy, recently conducted a training session for Tusculum police and auxiliary officers to administer a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdoses.

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