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Reversing course, Town of Tonawanda Police to carry opiate rescue drug

The Town of Tonawanda Police Department has changed its stance on carrying the lifesaving opiate rescue drug.

Police officers will be carrying naloxone, Town Supervisor Joseph Emminger said.

"It is my understanding the Tonawanda Police are going to be trained and will be carrying Narcan in the near future," Emminger said.

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, which can be administered through a nasal spray to someone overdosing from opiates. More than 21,000 first responders and civilians in Erie County have been trained to administer the overdose antidote.

"To say that I'm grateful is an understatement," said Debra Smith of the Erie County Opioid Epidemic Task Force. Her son died of an overdose, and Smith and other parents who lost children to overdoses are trying to convince departments to use the drug. "We know that every opportunity that someone has, if they are overdosing and revived, is an opportunity for recovery."

Patrol officers in the Town of Tonawanda and four other Erie County police departments do not carry the drug, which is provided free to the municipalities by Erie County through a state program. The others are the City of Tonawanda, Lackawanna, Orchard Park and West Seneca.

In the Town of Tonawanda, the paramedics unit operates within the police department and responds to calls with naloxone. Representatives from the other departments that don't carry naloxone also said the paramedic or fire rescue departments in their communities do carry the drug, and respond with police to overdose calls.

Narcan is a life-saving overdose drug. So why won't all officers carry it?

The rescue drug has been cited nationally as important in saving lives. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has emphasized the importance of naloxone in the opioid epidemic.

“Knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life,” he said in a public advisory.

“This is strictly first aid, it’s whoever gets there first. We don’t think twice about teaching CPR,” said Cheryll M. Moore, an medical care administrator for Erie County, who conducts training in the use of the rescue drug. “We want to get someone breathing as soon as possible.”

Local police chiefs and their colleagues around the country have been grappling with the decision to carry or not to carry naloxone. For some it is an extension of their mission to serve and protect; for others it is an issue of lack of resources for training and supplies and taking on new duties that  keep them from performing their mission.

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