June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Police to get heroin antidote to prevent drug overdoses

Police officers responding to a drug overdose soon will have an extra life-saving tool.

Summa Lake Medina and Medina Hospital are teaming up with Medina police and squads from Medina and Montville Townships to arm officers with Narcan, a synthetic narcotic that blocks the effects of opiates, such as heroin, on the nervous system.

Local officials moved quickly to implement a state law signed by Gov. John Kasich last week that allows officers to carry the medication.

“There may be as many as one call per week that relates to a heroin overdose,” said Dr. John Surso, who serves as the physician for the Medina Police Department, director of Summa Lake Medina and operates a family practice through the Cleveland Clinc’s Medina Hospital facility.

Surso said heroin use is on the rise and the new state law gives police officers access to a heroin antidote. Thanks to collaboration between the Cleveland Clinic and Summa Health System, taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill, he said.

“The medicine will be provided by the health care entities,” he said. “That’s good news for taxpayers.”

Surso said he and other physicians are working to develop protocols for how the two medical centers will distribute Narcan, and it’s generic version, naloxone, to Medina, Medina Township and Montville Township police.

“We already have the Narcan here and we’re trying to move as fast as we can on this,” Surso said.

The statewide law allowing police to distribute Narcan follows a five-month-long pilot program in Lorain County. Police in Lorain County used Narcan 30 times and were able to revive 28 people during those five months.

The success of the pilot program is what prompted state lawmakers to pass the legislation, said Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, who lobbied local state lawmakers to pass the law. Hanwell said the pilot program was initially intended to last a full year, but with heroin abuse on the rise, Hanwell said he asked Sen. Larry Obhof, of Montville Township, and House Speaker Bill Batchelder, of Medina, to pass the law sooner.

“We wanted them to move along sooner,” Hanwell said. “If we have a chance to help save or prolong a life, we should be using those resources as best as we can.”

Surso said the drug is easily administered with a nasal spray and training for the three police units shouldn’t take longer than two hours. Training on how to administer the drug will begin in a few weeks.

The medication will be administered where an opiate overdose is suspected. If there is no overdose, the medicine will not cause any harm. The medication will be carried along with the automated external defibrillators that officers already take on duty with them in their squad cars.

“The only real cost would be overtime for the officers to do the training,” Surso said.

Eventually, Surso wants to expand the program to serve every police department in the county.

“Once we can demonstrate how to do the training, we can easily expand this,” he said. “We want to make it countywide and maybe serve as an example of how other counties can implement a program.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4603 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.