Jefferson Co. Law Enforcement Officers Train to Carry Naloxone
Jefferson County is the latest area in East Tennessee to arm its law enforcement with Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
On Tuesday night, law enforcement members from departments and agencies across the county trained on how to administer Naloxone.
Rescue 180, Jefferson County's substance abuse coalition, helped host the event. The organization is trained and funded by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health Division of Substance Abuse Services.
Rev. Debra Shultz, executive director of Rescue 180, said the Naloxone is being provided through a grant from the state.
"We're very excited," Shultz said. "We're not excited about the problem, of course, but we're excited about the fact that we're going to have Narcan tonight."
Shultz said the county desperately needs the life-saving drug with the officers who are on the street.
"We think this is something that we need for our community," Shultz said, "and to hit the streets with Narcan, is awesome."
According to data from the Knox County District Attorney General, 224 people died from an overdose in Knox County in 2016. State data shows that five people died in Jefferson County from an overdose in 2016.
Law enforcement in Jefferson County said those numbers may not be telling the full story.
"We're seeing a lot of pill activity and drug activity," said Corporal Steven Arnold with White Pine Police Department. "Actually, heroin we're seeing it for the first time in several years. I hadn't seen heroin in my first 20 years as a law enforcement officer here."
Knoxville Police Department started using Naloxone in September 2015. Since then, the department has saved dozens of lives and inspired other departments to do the same.
White Pine Police Chief Chad Cotter said, "We thought, 'What can we do as law enforcement to help save lives,' and we've seen the progress KPD has been making, so we decided to start the program here in Jefferson County."
Cotter said their goal is to arm every officer in Jefferson County with the life-saving drug. The county should be receiving about 170 units by the end of October so officers can better help when they arrive on scene of a possible overdose.
Arnold said, "It makes me feel good that I can do a little more when I get on the scene because law enforcement is usually there first."