The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department says it will continue to administer the overdose antidote Naloxone when responding to calls after receiving an additional 100 doses from the county health department. The change in policy comes after Sheriff Brad Swain announced earlier Tuesday officers would reserve the department’s remaining doses for emergency responders.
“As I was reading accounts of law enforcement officers just having a brush of fentanyl on their skin going into extreme distress, physical distress where they needed a dose of Narcan before being transported to emergency, I had a concern what our remaining stock was and if we had any available for our own officers if we should encounter some kind of drug that would give them that reaction,” Swain says.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says in its fentanyl briefing guide for first responders “fentanyl can be ingested orally, inhaled through the nose or mouth, or absorbed through the skin or eyes.” It says anyone who exhibits overdose symptoms as the result of exposure to fentanyl should be given naloxone.
Swain sent an email to officers Monday night notifying them of the change in policy. He says the department is down to about one naloxone kit per officer.
Monroe County is one of several communities the state supplied with naloxone and training as part of a grant program under former Attorney General Greg Zoeller. The program awarded money to three non-profit organizations, who distributed the overdose antidote to local law enforcement. Swain says he could ask the county council for additional funding to buy more naloxone, but he has no plans to do so.
“If I go to the county and ask for money for this, then local tax dollars are being diverted from something else within local government,” Swain says. “And, that includes I have about 20 Kevlar vests that are set to expire.”
Overdose Lifeline Founder Justin Phillips says her organization is working to help the department restock. But she says anyone worried about a loved one with an opioid addiction can get the antidote at a pharmacy, which could be part of the solution to diminished supplies.
“Because if you’re at home with your loved one and they overdose you can administer a dose before EMS arrives,” Phillips says. “That’s one less dose EMS has to use.”
Swain says the organization offered to donate an additional kit for each officer. Overdose Lifeline hopes to have the kits delivered by Friday.
Monroe County officers only administer the nasal spray version of the overdose antidote. Other kits require a needle to be injected to deliver the treatment.
“The nasal type of naloxone is hard to get right now, even from the organizations that supply those to public safety,” Swain says.
While the injectable version of naloxone is cheaper, sometimes by $20 a dose, Swain says it’s not practical for officers to use. Phillips says she has yet to communicate with any law enforcement agency willing to use the injectable method. She also acknowledges that using needles requires safety precautions.
“The idea of using a needle and a syringe is, I don’t know if they would use the word intimidating, but it’s something they’re not used to doing,” Phillips says.
The Bloomington Police Department hasn’t changed its policy for naloxone use. Officers there use it as needed when responding to calls. And the Indiana University Police Department says it’s not experiencing a shortage of the overdose antidote.
Jeni O’Malley, Director of Public Affairs for the Indiana State Department of Health, says in an e-mail the agency hasn’t received reports of a statewide shortage of naloxone. She says the agency also has emergency caches of the overdose antidote that can be deployed when local supplies have been exhausted and resupply chains are inadequate.
This post has been updated.