by Jim Boyle
The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office has possibly saved the life of a 25-year-old man who was overdosing on heroin at a residence on May 19 in Livonia Township.
A deputy administered Narcan, a brand of a prescription drug Naxalone that can reverse the effects of prescription opioid and heroin overdose. The state granted such authority to first responders in 2014.
Sherburne County, which recorded 11 heroin overdoses in 2012, including three in Elk River, was one of the early adopters that trained and added Narcan to its toolkit.
“I just made a decision, if at all possible we could save a life, we were going to do it,” Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott said.
In August 2014, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office became the first agency in Minnesota to train and equip law enforcement personnel with Narcan.
Hennepin County became the first agency to administer the antidote on Feb. 22, 2015. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek had teamed up with Sen. Chris Eaton to pass the legislation to give law enforcement and firefighters the ability to administer Narcan. Previously, only medical professionals were authorized to administer it.
Brott said it makes sense for deputies to have the drug on hand.
“We’re often one of the first on the scene with our people out there on the street,” Brott said. “EMS certainly carry it, too, but often we will arrive before they do.”
Deputies, patrol sergeants and others in the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office have been trained on the administration of Naxalone.
The May 19 incident in Livonia Township was the first time Narcan was administered by a Sherburne County deputy while out on a medical call, Brott said.
It was, however, the third time the department has used it to pull someone out of an overdose, Brott added.
The first two incidents happened in the booking area of the Sherburne County Jail, where individuals who had been arrested on drug charges while high heroin or an opiate began to experience an overdose there.
Law enforcement responded to a home in the 13000 block of 268th Ave. in Livonia Township shortly before 11 p.m. May 19 on a report of a man who had recently injected heroin, Brott said.
Upon arrival, the deputies found the Livonia Township man to be unresponsive, with short, shallow breaths and a pale and clammy complexion. Deputies observed several injection marks on the man’s arm.
A short while after receiving the Narcan, the male regained consciousness and was able to walk to the ambulance with paramedics. The victim was transported to the Fairview Northland Regional Hospital in Princeton.
The Narcan takes effect quickly, but is not a replacement for medical attention.
“They could still revert back to an overdose situation,” Brott said.
In the Hennepin County case on Feb. 22, 2015, a sheriff’s deputy and Corcoran police officers responded.
They arrived to find a person unconscious and the deputy began rescue breathing.
When emergency personnel evaluated symptoms and conducted a patient assessment, they determined Narcan was needed.
The deputy administered Narcan and the victim’s breathing improved significantly. Paramedics arrived and administered a second dose. A short time later, the victim was responsive, walked with assistance to the ambulance and was transported to the hospital.
Narcan is just one tool in the fight against heroin and opiate abuse.
The fight goes on
In Sherburne County, there had been a rash in overdose deaths in 2012, and the issue continues to be a problem in Sherburne County communities, across the state and the nation.
In 2013, more than 16,000 deaths in the United States involved prescription opioids, and more than 8,000 others were related to heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2014, the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to bring two community forums. “The Night to Know the Truth” programs addressed many facets of heroin use and prescription drug abuse.
Sherburne County has also been aggressive about pushing a prescription drug take-back program. Brott said bins of unused prescriptions fill up daily.
“There’s a tremendous amount that gets collected,” Brott said.
Sherburne County has also had a very active Sherburne County Substance Use Prevention Coalition, which has been launching various initiatives and hosted a “Hidden in Plain Sight” program designed to open the eyes of parents and the community at an open house.
The coalition was buoyed in 2014 when it was awarded a five-year $1.25 million Drug-Free Communities federal grant.
The coalition was created two years prior to that through the leadership of the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. The mission of the coalition is to prevent substance use among Sherburne County youth by promoting safe and healthy choices among all community members.
The fight on the streets goes on, too. Brott continues to put resources toward a Sherburne County Drug Task, which added an officer from the Elk River Police Department to its team when the Elk River City Council added the position to its 2015 budget.