Police and first responders at risk for poisoning

Rockland police seek funding to stock Narcan as personal protection

Posted:  Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 7:00pm
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ROCKLAND – Sixteen is the number of reported overdoses Rockland patrol officers have tended to this year. Sixteen is also the number of times those officers could have been exposed to deadly drugs.

To the patients themselves, Rockland’s Fire/EMS department administers Naloxone, aka Narcan, a medication designed to rapidly reverse the effects of opioid exposure.

“Rockland PD is very fortunate in that we have a 24/7 fully staffed and very professional Emergency Medical Service Unit at Rockland Fire,” Deputy Chief Chris Young said. “Due to their level of competence and ability to rapidly respond to an incident, we rely on them for patient care.”

But for the officers, who are often the first on scene and therefore more vulnerable to the transdermal (absorbed through the skin) and airborne chemicals, the wait for medical assistance for themselves can be too slow. Especially if respiration should become slow or ceases altogether.

Therefore, the Rockland Police Department is seeking a funding source so that they can join Belfast PD, Waldo and Knox county sheriffs’ departments and other municipal agencies in carrying this latest personal protection defense.

Two people among the 16 Rockland overdoses cases died, though only one was officially classified as a drug-overdose death, according to Young.

“The second death is still pending while awaiting the Medical Examiners report and therefore cannot be confirmed as an overdose death,” he said.

According to an October 2015 Maine Health and Human Services report, SEOW Special Report: Heroin, Opioids, and Other Drugs in Maine, heroin use is most prevalent among the southern and coastal regions (specifically York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Knox). The rates of heroin trafficking/sales arrests are highest in the Midcoast.”

Yet heroin isn’t the most powerful – and therefore the greatest – risk to humans.

Fentanyl, a drug used in anesthesia, is hundreds of times more potent than heroin, according to policeone.com“If an officer comes in contact with anything containing the drug – added to everything from Vicodin to heroin and even cocaine coming from Mexico – the potentially deadly drug can be almost immediately absorbed into the bloodstream.”

Sheriffs in Waldo County, though never exposed personally to Fentanyl, have seen overdoses where the drug was detected, according to Chief Deputy Jason Trundy of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.

For both Rockland and Waldo’s sheriff’s department, “Various prescription medication and heroin seem to be the most prevalent currently,” Trundy said. “Although we have seen other drugs as well.”

For the drug users who end up in jail, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department is considering Narcan for its correctional division.

“We view Narcan as one of many tools available to address the opiate addiction crisis,” he said.

So too does the crew of South Thomaston Ambulance, who have used Narcan a few times in the past several years.

“We are glad to have it on board although it is sad when we have to use it,” EMT Eliot Scott said.

 Related stories:

Belfast Police now carry Narcan to combat overdose tragedies

Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition work to reduce recidivism

Drug overdose deaths at steady pace through first six months of 2017

Where is the heroin coming from?

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