The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station was named last week as one of three Los Angeles County Sheriff’s stations that will take part in a pilot program that will give deputies an anti-opioid nasal spray called Narcan to aid in suspected overdose emergencies.
Though CV Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Blasnek said he isn’t aware of any opioid-related overdoses in his station’s coverage area, he’s enthusiastic about the opportunity to carry the spray.
“The Sheriff is trying to get out ahead of this thing rather than wait till it’s a huge problem,” Blasnek said. “I’ve been reading some blogs to see what people’s reactions are and some people say, ‘I don’t see these people as victims; they made a choice.’ But all I’m going to say is that we are not their judges, we are there to save lives. If we can save even one life, it’s worth it.”
According to a release from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, there were eight overdoses, including one death, within a 72-hour period in April in Santa Clarita. The sheriff’s station there also received a batch of Narcan, as did the East Los Angeles station.
In addition to establishing teams for enforcement, prevention, intervention and rehabilitation efforts, Sheriff Jim McDonnell introduced the intent to issue 1,200 doses of the anti-opioid medication, naloxone, to nearly every field deputy. Blasnek said his deputies should have them by the week’s end.
The product, known by its brand name of Narcan, comes in a 4-milligram nasal spray that blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication. The spray kits reportedly cost $75 apiece.
In March 2016, the Center of Disease Control issued a statement about the “epidemic of overdose deaths.” McDonnell said opioid overdoses are killing about 160 people per day across the nation, including nearby.
L.A. County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Judy Gerhardt lost her 23-year-old nephew, Maxwell Baker, to a heroin overdose six months ago. In his own research, Blasnek found that Orange County Sheriff’s deputies have already issued the spray 21 times, and that it was effective 20 times.
“Deputy sheriffs are often the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, which presents us with a unique opportunity to have an immediate impact on the effects of opioid overdose,” McDonnell said during a news conference last week.
“This heroin epidemic has no boundary lines, it can be in an affluent community as well as any community,” Blasnek said. “So if we can administer it and it’s not harmful, then why wouldn’t we do it?”
— Mirjam Swanson