(TNS) - The Cleveland police department became the latest law enforcement agency to equip its police officers with naloxone, a powerful drug that can counteract a potentially deadly opioid overdose.
Police have already rolled out kits of Narcan -- which is the brand name for the drug -- to about 150 zone cars. The rollout is ongoing, and Narcan kits will continue to be distributed to officers on the front line, Cleveland police Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said.
More than 900 police officers have received training on how to administer the drug. Most of those equipped with Narcan will be patrol officers who are tasked with responding to 911 calls and emergency situations. Some detectives will be equipped with the drug as well, Ciaccia said.
Cleveland Emergency Medical Service paramedics and Cleveland firefighters have already been carrying the drug -- but now that Cleveland police are equipped, all first responders in the city will be able to act quickly when they find overdosing victims.
"Our officers will now be able to save lives, just like our counterparts with fire and EMS," Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams said in March when the decision was announced.
The city spent about $50,000 to get the program up and running, according to Edward Eckart, assistant director of public safety.
Police departments across the state have been using Narcan for some time, but Eckart said that process happened later in Cleveland due to the size of the department and because officials wanted to get the rollout right.
The Narcan kits Cleveland police carry contain twice the dosage of the kits paramedics and firefighters use, Eckart said. Oftentimes, overdose victims require several doses, so larger doses in the police kit mean that officers will have to administer the drugs to a person fewer times than paramedics, Eckart said.
Cleveland police generally respond to several overdoses per day. Over the course Monday and early Tuesday alone, police tended to 11 opiate-related incidents, two of which were fatal, a police spokesman said.
Ohio is ground-zero for the opioid epidemic, topping every other state in the nation in 2014 with a total of 2,106 deaths.
The death toll has only risen from there, and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office remains inundated with fatal overdoses.
The county had 228 deaths in 2015 that stemmed from heroin, fentanyl and other opioid overdoses.
Those numbers more than doubled in 2016, when Cuyahoga County experienced 666 deaths from opioids including heroin, fentanyl or some combination of the drugs, according to the medical examiner's office.
The county is on pace to have 775 deaths in 2017.
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