BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — Asheville police are about to carry a new life saving tool. They're training to administer the opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.
As the epidemic continues, Asheville Police Department (APD) data shows its officers are more frequently arriving to overdose scenes first. However, police want to make it clear they are not trying to replace fire and EMS.
Police plan to bring Naloxone, which is also sold as a nasal spray branded Narcan, out into the field this spring.
Initially, patrol supervisors, the housing unit, downtown unit, drug suppression, and school resource officers will carry it, but first they will undergo training.
News 13 sat in on a training session to learn how to properly administer the drug as well as learning precautions for exposure to drugs like Fentanyl.
Captain Gary Gudac will oversee the department's use of Naloxone. APD officers were on the scene of 117 overdoses in 2016. In 2017, that number jumped to 318.
"As far as equipping officers to administer drugs, probably four or five years back it definitely would have been a head-scratcher. Why are we going down this route? I think when we, as an agency, looked at the increase from last year to this year in the first and second quarter, we saw a huge jump," Captain Gudac said.
Officers are going through the training because APD data shows they're arriving to overdoses first more frequently.
"A call goes out and fire, EMS, they're responding from a set location where our officers are mobile," said Gudac, explaining why they may be arriving first more often.
When APD responded to an overdose last year, they arrived first about 1 out of 5 times.
"If we can equip our officers with this tool and we save one life, then that's a life that's been saved," Gudac said.
Gudac said they want to stabilize the person until fire and EMS can get there. He repeated APD is not trying to replace the first responders, they just want to fill in a gap of a minute or two.
Gudac also said officers haven't and don't plan on arresting people who overdose. He said having more Naloxone out in the field isn't a solution, but it is a tool that can save a life.
In North Carolina, you can call 911 to report an overdose and ask for help without a risk, in most cases, of being arrested.