Police to carry life-saving overdose drug
Steamboat Springs — Local police and members of the public will be trained to administer a drug that could save the life of someone who has overdosed on drugs.
As the nation battles with a prescription drug abuse epidemic, the number of drug overdose deaths this year locally is already staggering.
Ken Davis, co-founder of the Rx Task Force, said he was aware of 14 deaths in Routt County. There were five overdose deaths each year in 2013 and 2014 in Routt County.
“Certainly from 2013, we’ve seen a significant increase in drug overdose deaths,” Davis said.
The potentially life-saving drug called Narcan is a nasal mist form of naloxone. Recently, it became legal to buy the drug without a prescription. City Market in Steamboat Springs sells the drug, and Walgreens anticipates selling the drug soon.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced this week the launch of the Colorado Naloxone for Life Initiative. Coffman was in Steamboat on Wednesday and discussed the initiative.
“We really want to see if this works and if it is being used by communities,” she said.
Coffman’s office is using $264,500 in proceeds related to pharmaceutical lawsuits to buy 2,500 dual-dose Narcan Rescue Kits. They will be given to police in 17 counties with high rates of drug overdose deaths.
While Routt and Moffat counties are not included, they can still buy the Narcan at a reduced rate through the government.
Jackson County is participating, and a regional training will be held Sept. 30 in Steamboat to teach police and community members how to administer the drug. There is no cost to attend, but people need to register online at csoc.org/training_schedule.asp. There will be two-hour classes offered up to three times during the day.
The Routt County Sheriff’s Office has four deputies who will attend the training. They will then be able to train other deputies.
“It’s definitely a program that we’re interested in and getting involved in,” Undersheriff Ray Birch said.
Two Steamboat police officers will also be attending. Chief Cory Christensen said they have spent $615 to buy Narcan through the Attorney General’s Office.
“It’s just another tool for the officers to have with them to save someone’s life,” Christensen said.
He said the training will also help keep police officers safe. There have been documented cases of officers accidentally being exposed to synthetic opiate drugs.
“A very small amount can cause an opiate reaction in the officer,” Christensen said.
Deputy Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli said Narcan works by blocking the receptor sites that allow narcotics into a person’s system. Steamboat firefighters trained as paramedics have administered the drug for years.
Cerasoli said when a person has overdosed, the main concern is that it causes a person’s respiration rate to slow down.
“You’re not getting enough oxygen into your body because you’re not breathing,” Cerasoli said.
He said without a doubt, the drug has helped them save lives.
“I certainly can think of situations where the police having it will be a benefit,” Cerasoli said.
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As Steamboat Springs and Routt County ease out of the pandemic, I’m thrilled to see a full slate of community events on the calendar in the coming months.