Two local foundations have donated $7,000 to purchase overdose antidote kits for more than 100 law enforcement officers in Clark County, three weeks after an officer in northeast Ohio overdosed after coming in contact with synthetic opioids.
The money donated to the Clark County Combined Health District will purchase naloxone — the powerful drug commonly known by its brand name Narcan that revives people from an overdose — for 90 Springfield Police Division officers and 15 Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
The Narcan kits will be carried by officers on the street for their personal protection in case they come in contact with fentanyl — a drug that’s 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin. Some versions of it can cause an overdose by just touching it or inhaling small amounts.
A police officer in East Liverpool was recently revived with four doses of Narcan after brushing some powder off his uniform caused him to overdose.
Springfield police have responded to more than 500 calls involving drug overdoses this year, Springfield Police Chief Steve Moody said. The police run in tandem with Springfield Fire/Rescue Division medics on overdose calls, he said.
The kits will ensure officers safety while collecting evidence, Moody said. Many times drug users have cleaned up the scene before officers arrive, he said. The division has also emphasized that officers should wear gloves.
“What we saw in East Liverpool is a prime example of how important it is to ensure each officer is provided the necessary equipment to save their own life or the life of another officer,” he said. “Narcan is another tool for the officers to protect themselves, not unlike ballistic vests, pepper spray or Tasers.”
The Springfield Foundation donated $5,000 for the kits and the Community Health Foundation gave $2,000.
The Community Health Foundation had donated money for Narcan to McKinley Hall treatment center in the past but was unaware of the need for local law enforcement to carry kits, Executive Director Joy Rogers said. After speaking with its executive committee, the foundation agreed officers and deputies needed protection from opioids they may come in contact with, she said.
“They’re out in our community 24/7 looking out for all of us and keeping us safe,” Rogers said. “They’re risking their lives while doing it … Once we were aware of the need, it seemed like a natural thing to give what we could to help protect them. I’m glad we could help where we could.”
The incident in East Liverpool made the community more aware of the inherent danger, Rogers said.
“The opiates and synthetics are so powerful that casual contact can lead to a dangerous situation for a first responder,” she said. “It’s a measure to try to protect the ones who protect us.”
After reading about the incident and being contacted by the health district, the donation was a no-brainer, Springfield Foundation Executive Director Ted Vander Roest said.
“It just seemed like it was something that needed to be done,” he said. “We just felt like we needed to step up and help out.”
Other police departments across the nation have begun carrying Narcan for their dogs as well.
The police division is also examining how to protect K-9 officers who come in contact with opioids. The K-9 unit recently had to turn down a drug search because the house might have contained fentanyl, which can also cause dogs to overdose, Moody said.
“We have to protect our four-legged officers as well because they’re such a benefit to the community,” he said.
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By the Numbers
69: Suspected drug deaths this year.
79: Drug overdose deaths in Clark County last year.
600: Drug overdoses this year.
About this series: Springfield’s Opioid War
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s opioid epidemic and what local officials are doing to solve the problem.