MILLERSVILLE, Md. - Anne Arundel County has seen an big increase in heroin use and overdoses.
"So far this year, in this calendar year, we've had 85 heroin overdoses, 12 of them have been fatal," says County Executive Laura Neuman.
While the fight continues to get the drug off the streets, the county hopes equipping police with a lifesaving medicine will save the lives of overdose victims.
"On those occasions where we respond first to one of these calls for service, for an overdose, we don't want to be in a position where we're literally watching someone die," says Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis.
Starting this week, Narcan training will begin for the close to 700 officers that make up the county's police force. Each officer will be given a kit with the drug, also known as Naloxone, which can counter the effects of an overdose due to heroin or prescription medications.
The plan to purchase the nasal spray version of Narcan began coming together when Davis met with the Fire Chief Michael Cox to discuss the rise in overdoses in the county. "We decided that the best way to tackle this is to arm and outfit our police officers with Narcan," Davis said.
Taking this step, Davis hopes they will also help reduce the amount of crime in the county. "We think fewer people who are eventually addicted to this nasty drug will ultimately bode well for the crime fighting picture in Anne Arundel County," he says. The police department found that a majority of criminals who break into cars and steal property, such as precious metals, have an addiction problem.
The chief was quick to point out that a heroin problem doesn't discriminate by socioeconomic status.
"The middle class, the upper middle class, folks who live on $1.5 million houses on three acres. It impacts certainly everyone," he says.
Melissa Eppinger is the owner of a successful salon and spa in the county, but living comfortably didn't protect her family from the struggles heroin use can bring. "Nothing prepared me to face the absolute heart break of having [crying] my own son struggle with addiction," Eppinger says.
Her 22-year-old son is in his eighth drug recovery program.
"Almost expecting to get a call that your child has died is not a feeling that can be explained to anyone not going through it," Eppinger says.
She says it was paramedics, with Narcan that saved her son one night when she found him suffering from an overdose. "I had found him after he had snuck out one evening, he was on the floor in-and-out of semi consciousness, his lips were blue," she said.
She called 911 and within minutes paramedics where on scene with Narcan in hand. "He was given Narcan in the ambulance, and again at the hospital. Providing Narcan and training for the officer will save lives," Eppinger said.
Neuman, the county executive, says she has talked to three families who had lost loved ones to heroin overdoses. "This should be a wakeup call for all us, not just in Anne Arundel County, but in Maryland and across this country," she said. "It gives us the opportunity to have an immediate impact when someone has overdosed from heroin."
Roy Myers is the medical director for the Anne Arundel fire department, he says administration of Narcan is easy to teach, plus "The side effects of Narcan are basically minimal, if the diagnosis is incorrect; it is not going to do any harm. "
A handful of police department around the nation have begun giving officers Narcan kits. "As far as I know, we are the only agency in Maryland and the largest in the country," says Sgt.Dan Sereboff who will lead the training of officers. He says it is a proud moment for the department.
"One of the fundamental things that we do as police is saving lives, so we can never lose that focus."
Anne Arundel County Police demonstrate Narcan administration
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