Police officers are getting training for an easy-to-use drug that can reverse a heroin overdose.
Arming more first responders with potentially life-saving drugs can help save more lives, said Dr. Thomas Tulisiak, president of Medina Hospital.
“200 individuals in Cuyahoga County died last year of a heroin overdose, there were 60 in Lorain County,” Tulisiak said. “Right here in Medina County, 20 individuals died of a heroin overdose in 2013.”
The Cleveland Clinic, which operates Medina Hospital, partnered with Summa Lake Medina to offer training to police officers on how to administer Narcan, the brand name of the synthetic narcotic naloxone that blocks the effects of opiates such as heroin on the nervous system.
At Summa Lake Medina medical center Friday afternoon, officers from Medina, Medina and Montville townships got training on how to administer the drug.
Ohio passed a law earlier this month allowing police to administer the drug following a successful pilot program in Lorain County.
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell pushed state leaders to pass a law allowing police to administer Narcan, citing success made with a pilot program in Lorain County. In the first five months of the pilot program, Narcan was used 30 times and revived 28 people.
“It’s our hope and prayer that this is going to save lives,” Hanwell told officers at the training.
Officers can carry Narcan in their duty bags. It is administered nasally where it’s absorbed into the body through the nasal membranes.
At the training, officers were told to be prepared to deal with an agitated person after administering the drug. Narcan reverses the overdose effect, and the victim can suddenly become alert and suffer sudden withdrawal from the drug.
“If they’re a chronic user and they’re withdrawing suddenly — they will not be your friend,” 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 Clinic’s Medina Hospital facility.
After police administer the drug, Summa and Cleveland Clinic will provide the three police departments with replacement Narcan for the next time they may encounter an overdose victim.
Surso is hoping to expand the program countywide in every department.
Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said the Narcan will be carried by officers every day and used the same way other first-responder tools like trauma kits and automatic electronic defibrillators are used by police officers. Berarducci said officers who arrive ahead of EMS units at a scene want to be able to administer medical care to serious and critical patients.
“We’re meeting the emotional needs of our officers as well,” Berarducci said. “It’s really hard for them to lose someone — they want to help.”
Berarducci said the desire to help includes overdose victims. He said the lives of addicts are just as valuable as those who suffer other medical emergencies.
“People don’t choose to be an addict — they make an initial mistake that leads to addiction,” Berarducci said. “You never know what a life you save is going to turn around and be.”
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.