COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Police are considering expanding a program that is saving lives.
The department has been testing the opiate-fighting drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, in the Hilltop and south Columbus areas. During the trial run, officer administered the lifesaving drug 58 times.
Confronting the opiate epidemic has become a priority for many law enforcement agencies across Central Ohio.
Agencies in Hilliard and Dublin and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office have implemented the Narcan program in their departments.
“There has been an increase of overdoses across Franklin County,” Franklin County Chief Deputy Rick Minerd.
Minerd said about half of the commanding deputies with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office are trained how to administer Narcan.
“I know we have had at least two or three here just in the last months where officers beat the paramedics to the scene and administered the kits they had on hand,” said Minerd.
A year ago, the sheriff’s office rolled out Project DAWN, a lifesaving program that educated officers about the heroin addiction epidemic and how to save lives.
“We are seeing it widespread. We are seeing it in the inner city, in the suburbs,” Minerd said.
The heroin epidemic has hit neighborhoods throughout Columbus.
“We know that their work has gotten more complicated and they have had to administer it more often,” said Jose Rodriguez with Columbus Public Health.
Rodriguez’s department works closely with the city’s fire and police departments to administer Narcan in areas affected by heroin across the city.
In 2016, Columbus Police and the Columbus Division of Fire administered Naloxone 2,300 times.
Areas with a disproportionately higher rate of drug crimes saw a spike on heroin overdoses in September and July.
“Having a system in place where we can respond in case of an emergency is critical. That is what police and fire are doing right now: they are acting as our public health ambassadors and making sure we are responding to the crisis of the opioid epidemic,” said Rodriquez.