Which raises the question: Can law enforcement do more to reduce drug overdoses than just make arrests?
In timely coincidence, out last month from the Bureau of Justice Statistics: A "Law Enforcement Naloxone Toolkit" titled "Engaging law enforcement in opioid overdose response: Frequently asked questions." The introduction to the document reads:
Claiming nearly 120 American lives daily, drug overdose is a true national crisis. The main driver of this epidemic is opioid overdose (OOD), which cuts across class, race, and demographic characteristics. Certain groups, including veterans, residents of rural and tribal areas, recently-released inmates, and people completing drug treatment/detox programs are at an especially high risk of OOD.A couple of Texas legislators (Eric Johnson, Ryan Guillen) have already filed bills to create a defense when drug users call 911 to report an overdose. But equally important is having patrol officers carry Naloxone, an opioid antagonist which "has no potential for abuse," according to the FAQ. It is a "very safe medication with the potential side effect of a theoretical risk of allergy that has never been documented." It can administered nasally or be injected - a company that makes a naloxone auto-injector makes the product available at a discount for law enforcement.
The vast majority of OODs are accidental and result from taking inappropriate doses of opioids or mixing opioid drugs with other substances. These drug poisonings typically take 45-90 minutes to turn fatal, creating a critical window of opportunity for lifesaving intervention. Appropriate assistance, including administration of the antidote naloxone, can quickly and effectively reverse the OOD.
Reducing the time between the onset of OOD symptoms and effective intervention is a matter of life and death. Tragically, many victims do not receive timely medical attention. In many cases, witnesses delay calling for help because they do not recognize OOD symptoms or are concerned about getting in trouble with the law. In other cases, emergency medical response may take too long to arrive or the victim may not be discovered until it is too late.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) have always been on the front lines of the battle against drug-related harm in our communities. The current OOD crisis is no different. Across the US, law enforcement agencies are increasingly initiating programs to stem the tide of overdose fatalities. This document provides an overview of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that may arise in agencies that are considering or initiating such efforts.
Texas has never passed statutes about the drug one way or another, according to a website that tracks state laws related to naloxone, but I've never heard of a Texas police agency using it."Almost half the states in the United States have passed naloxone access laws that shield 'any person' from civil and criminal liability if they administer naloxone."
The FAQ recommends police agencies partner with local health agencies to procure naloxone and train officers in its use. "In most cases, a protocol called a 'standing order' can be issued for the entire department by any provider holding a license to write prescriptions. Larger departments may have a medical director or other licensed prescribers already on staff, the FAQ noted. In New Jersey and New York, their Boards of Pharmacy "have streamlined the process by which law enforcement agencies can order the medication, allowing these agencies to purchase naloxone directly from a wholesaler instead of receiving it from a retail pharmacy via a prescription from a health care provider." (NYPD equipped nearly 20,000 officers with naloxone.) And North Carolina authorized "agreements between law enforcement overdose response programs and EMS agencies to handle purchasing and training."
Grits would like to see Greg Abbott's Criminal Justice Division look into the possibility of grants to Texas police departments interested in these sorts of overdose prevention programs. There seems to be little downside that I can see and also a real opportunity to save lives.