The Jefferson County Board of Legislators is set to discuss a policy at Tuesdays Health and Human Services Committee meeting that would arm sheriffs deputies with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone hydrochloride, marketed under the name Narcan.
Narcan already is carried by the 13 advanced life support emergency response agencies in the county, but overdoses are on the rise in 2012, EMS teams were dispatched to more than 300 overdose calls and giving deputies the ability to use the drug is seen as a way to save more lives in a predominantly rural county where they are often the first to respond.
Some people have criticized the idea. They claim it will only encourage drug addicts to take greater risks, according to Legislator Anthony J. Doldo, R-Watertown, who has been supporting the measure since attending a presentation about the drug a few weeks ago.
But the issue is more complex than that, Mr. Doldo said.
Whether theyre a drug dealer or not, theyre still somebodys kid, or somebodys nephew or somebodys uncle. It could be a little kid who gets into his parents pain medication. If theres a chance to save that life, how can you not take that chance? I think its a great thing and itd be wrong to look the other way, Mr. Doldo said.
In a letter to Mr. Doldo, Sheriff John P. Burns said he would support a decision from the Jefferson County Board of Legislators to allow his deputies to carry Narcan, provided they receive the proper training to administer it.
Im supportive of it as long as we get the training, Mr. Burns said.
Narcan blocks the receptors in the brain affected by opioid drugs such as prescription painkillers and heroin, reversing the respiratory distress that can cause death.
Narcan traditionally has been injected into the body but now is available in an intranasal form that can be sprayed into the nostrils via an atomizer, making it easier and safer to administer.
The effects of the drug last about 30 minutes. Overdose patients who receive the drug must be transported immediately to a medical facility. Depending on the dosage of opioids, respiratory arrest still may occur after the effects of Narcan wear off.
Narcan is not addictive and produces no pharmacological effects.
Legislators first heard about the initiative during a presentation given at the end of May by Charles F. Brenon III, director of Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services, and Anita K. Seefried-Brown, director of community prevention at the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County.
If the county decides to pursue the measure, it most likely will receive free kits from the New York City-based Harm Reduction Coalition, which is under contract with the state Department of Health to administer an opioid overdose prevention program, according to Ms. Seefried-Brown.
After that, kits can be purchased for $10 to $12, Ms. Seefried-Brown said.