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Published August 23rd, 2017
Opiate antidote now in the hands of Lafayette police

The Lafayette City Council unanimously authorized its police officers Aug. 14 to administer naloxone, a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid emergency, to patients they encounter who show signs of an opioid overdose. The Lafayette police department becomes the first in Contra Costa County to employ trained officers to administer the drug in the field or at the police station.
"Lafayette is at the leading edge with this program," said Cam Burks, the council member with an extensive public safety background. "I support this program because opioids are a serious public safety issue and this program needs to be available to our citizens."
According to Contra Costa Health Services, there were 53 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2003 in Contra Costa County; in 2008 the number jumped to 84 and five years later, 113. Opioid-related deaths rose from 42 in 2013 to 48 in 2015.
"This is not just a Contra Costa County problem," said Tom Gilmore of Lafayette, who lost his son to an opioid overdose in 2013. "It's also a Lafayette problem, the same way it's been a problem in the United States."
Contra Costa County MEDS Coalition Director Patty Hoyt agreed. "No community is immune," she said.
Lafayette Chief of Police Eric Christensen said that a serious threat exists not only to the public but also to law enforcement officers who come in contact with opioids such as fentanyl, a strong narcotic recently added to street heroin. Just touching or inhaling a small amount of fentanyl can cause an overdose or death. By administering naloxone in the form of Narcan Nasal Spray, the police - often the first people on the scene - can reverse an opioid overdose.
"When someone needs Narcan, they need it badly," said Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Stephen Healy, who has worked with the drug for almost 30 years. "I'd advise that the police take universal precautions. Use gloves and eyewear, as victims could vomit upon resuscitation." The police field overdose kit will contain a pair of exam gloves and a face shield along with the nasal spray.
Terence Carey, assistant chief of emergency medical services for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, likened the police carrying a Narcan kit to their carrying an automated external defibrillator. "It's a good thing," Carey said. "In addition to officers having that tool, we'll be responding as well with trained advanced-life-support personnel."
Orinda Police Chief Mark Nagel confirmed that his officers will receive naloxone training in the coming months. Moraga has no immediate plans to begin the training, according to Town Manager Bob Priebe, though he said his police department would be interested in the program. "I don't see a downside, as long as there are precautions and proper training," he said.
Gilmore's wife, Barbara, is in charge of membership services for the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. In memory of the Gilmores' son, the chamber agreed to fund the initial purchase of five field overdose kits for the police department.
"Approving this program is not supporting or condoning the abuse of illicit drugs," Christensen wrote in a letter to the council. "This program simply acknowledges that a problem exists and provides another opportunity to save lives through rapid assessment and reversal of the effects of opioid-related drugs."

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