The New York Office of the Attorney General has awarded the Batavia Police Department with grant funds from the Community Overdose Prevention Program enabling select first responders from both the fire and police department to receive naloxone kits and training for administering the life-saving medication.
Also known as Narcan, naloxone is a medication administered by nasal spray to an individual who has overdosed on opioids (synthetic substances that mimic the narcotic effect of opium, from which heroin is derived). Naloxone works by temporarily reversing the effects of the opioid, whether illicit or prescription, allowing the individual to regain consciousness and resume normal breathing.
The kits cost approximately $60 each, and Batavia has received a grant of $720 to purchase kits for 12 first responders.
In addition, the Community Overdose Prevention Program has dedicated $5 million in funds seized as crime proceeds from joint federal and state criminal investigations to fund the purchase of a naloxone kit for every sworn officer in the state that might encounter an acute opioid overdose in the line of duty.
While City of Batavia first responders have received the commitment from the Attorney General’s Office, the kits still need to be ordered and training needs to take place. Each kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing: two vials of naloxone; two mucosal atomization devices for nasal administration; one pair of latex gloves; and a booklet on the use of naloxone.
Training on the use of the naloxone will be conducted by the City of Batavia Fire Department.
“We are fortunate to have had a number of individuals trained to both administer naloxone and train others to administer the drug,” said City of Batavia Fire Chief Jim Maxwell. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Batavia police to offer a service that has already seen more than 1,000 successful overdose reversals in New York State.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose, and nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers. When prescription medication is no longer available, individuals often turn to illicit drugs, such as heroin.
“While we are certainly not seeing the use of heroin at the epidemic proportions of many communities, heroin and other opioids are here in Batavia,” said City of Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch. “A key deterrent to opioid use, as with all drugs, is education and relentless attention.
“It’s difficult to keep up with trends among teens,” adds Heubusch, “but the ever-expanding choices among the synthetic drug market are something parents must pay attention to.”
According to Heubusch, one of the current top choices among teens is the drug "Cloud 9," an opioid that can be purchased over the Internet and looks just like an over-the-counter bottle of eye drops.
Batavia High School Principal Scott Wilson supports Chief Heubusch’s assessment of the strong need to educate the public on the constantly changing drug trends and ways to maintain vigilance. Wilson is holding a community roundtable designed to educate the community and provide information about the many resources available for both prevention and rehabilitation. The roundtable event, entitled “Community Awareness: Vaporizers, E-cigarettes and Their Use,” will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Batavia High School Library.
“From a school administrator’s position, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and claim to be diligent about monitoring our kids’ activities and behaviors,” says Wilson, emphasizing that the school district wants to make sure all community members are armed with the most updated and accurate information available.
“I’ve had well-meaning parents share with me that they’ve purchased a vaporizer for their child, because they believe it’s safer than cigarettes,” Wilson said. “What parents don’t know is that the synthetic drugs that go into these vaporizers are very different. These drugs are not regulated and users face sometimes dire, unintended consequences.”
The Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA) will bring samples of legally purchased -- but uncontrolled -- opioids to the roundtable and review the most effective preventative measures. The Batavia Police, Genesee County Sheriff and City of Batavia Fire Department will also be on hand to share information and answer questions.
“We’ve seen an increase in opiate addictions in both Genesee and Orleans counties; Providing our City police and fire professionals with the naloxone kits will save lives," said Pamela LaGrou, GCASA Communications/Development director, who has seen giant steps taken to respond to this increase all over the state.
LaGrou also places a strong emphasis on education: “heroin and other opioid drugs are easy accessible, relatively inexpensive and can be highly addictive.” LaGrou recommends the Web site www.combatheroin.ny.gov as one of the best sites available for public education. Links to that site can also be found at GCASA’s Web site at www.gcasa.net.