By Ali Freeman | WCAX.com
WATERBURY, Vt. –
It may only be a matter of minutes for an overdose to turn deadly, a chance that Vermont State Police Col. Tom L’Esperance says he doesn’t want to take.
“We patrol rural Vermont,” L’Esperance said. “And there is a good chance that the trooper could arrive first.”
Under a new initiative announced Thursday, Vermont’s green and gold will train to use a drug that can prevent overdose deaths. Called Narcan or Naloxone, it works as an opioid antagonist, essentially reviving an unresponsive patient within seconds.
“So this is a medication that effectively blocks the negative side effects of drugs like heroin, morphine, oxycontin, vicodin, etc… It does this in a way that is very effective, very safe, has virtually no other side effects,” said Michael Leyden, the deputy director of Vermont EMS.
Leyden says Narcan is sprayed out of a syringe into the patient’s nostrils. Since December, the Vt. Department of Health has been running a pilot program that gets Narcan kits to opiate users and their family members to have on hand just in case. Leyden says one of those kits has already been used this month to save a life.
For the state police, L’Esperance says getting Narcan to all troopers will be a two-step process. First, is training them about Narcan by springtime.
“So the troopers across the state understand what Narcan is all about. The last thing I would want to happen is a trooper go into an apartment where an overdose is taking place, someone is trying to administer Narcan, and a trooper took action,” L’Esperance said.
The second step is to supply each officer with Narcan to administer when responding to overdose situations. Some critics say this program can be seen as the state condoning illegal drug use, but L’Esperance says having the ability for troopers to administer Narcan will save lives.
“There will be critics out there, but all walks of life can be affected by this — so we aren’t taking any chances,” L’Esperance said. “And if we get to the point where we can carry it– the citizens of Vermont will all be better served. It’s an easy decision.”
State Police say there is not a set timeline yet for when troopers will be equipped with Narcan. L’Esperance says they have a team working on a logistics plan, like where troopers can carry and store the Narcan.