Opiate addiction is taking a grim toll on our country. Seven years ago in Quincy, Mass., more than 90 people died of drug overdoses during a period of 18 months. That’s when the Quincy Police Department decided to look into training its officers in the use of Naloxone, or Nasal Narcan, a drug that “separates the opiate from the receptors in the brain, and allows the individual to resume breathing,” Lt. Patrick Lynn, the Commander of the Narcotics Unit of Quincy Special Investigations told Scott Simon of NPR.
When Quincy Police officers undergo their first responder training, they learn to identify the signs of a possible overdose. When signs of a drug overdose are present, they administer a dose of the Narcan up each nostril, and the results have been striking. Quincy Police officers have administered Narcan 221 times since the fall 2011, reversing 211 overdoses.
According to The Boston Globe, since 2006, health officials in Massachusetts have been distributing Narcan to people likely to come into contact with drug users–such as family members and homeless shelter workers–and the rates of overdose have dramatically reduced. Lt. Lynn told Simon that when the Quincy Police first implemented Narcan training, the overdose death rate fell 66% in the first 18 months, and continues to hold steady at a 44% reduced rate. Perhaps more importantly, people in the community trust the police more, especially since the creation of a good Samaritan law that promises officers won’t charge overdose victims with a crime if they’re found in possession of small quantities of narcotics. “The perception of the police in the city of Quincy is dramatically changed,” Lt. Lynn said. “It’s dramatically changing throughout the state. People are now looking at us as being able to assist them, as opposed to only enforcers of the law.”
MORE: This Judge Figured Out How to Keep People Out of Prison by Treating Them Like His Own Children