Town Fighting Rising Heroin Crisis - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Town Fighting Rising Heroin Crisis

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OCEAN VIEW, De. - Chief Ken McLaughlin of the Ocean View Police Department said one recent decision could be the difference between life and death. The town council voted to purchase Naloxone Hydrochloride -- more commonly known as Narcan for every single officer. This is the first police agency in the state to purchase Narcan for every officer.

This purchase, comes as heroin overdoses are becoming more common in the first state. According to the Department for Health and Social Services, there have been 171 cases of suspected heroin overdoses, leading to death in the state. Below is a breakdown of those deaths: 

BY COUNTY:

Sussex: 35 deaths.

Kent: 35 deaths.

New Castle County: 98 deaths. 

BY GENDER:

Male: 106 deaths.

Female: 65.

BY RACE:

White: 141 deaths.

Black: 23 deaths.

Hispanic: 7 deaths.

BY AGE:

0-19: 4 deaths (Youngest was 17).

20-29: 24 deaths.

30-39: 46 deaths.

40-49: 45 deaths.

50-59: 36 deaths.

60-69: 13 deaths.

70 and older: 3 deaths. (Oldest was 87).

Average Age: Just over 42-years old.

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McLaughlin said one recent overdose in town was a wake-up call of sorts for the department.

"The individual still had a needle in his arm," he said. "(The officers) immediately began life-saving efforts - including CPR - to no avail. And unfortunately the gentleman passed away."

McLaughlin said he was already interested in buying Narcan for the department, but he said this death was a trigger. He said he didn't want his officers to feel helpless anymore.

"As a police officer," he said. "We hate to arrive on a scene and stand there with our hands in our pockets waiting for someone else."

Mayor Walter Curran said that he voted to get the Narcan. He said the cost and potential liabilities were of course concerns, but he said potentially saving a life made it worthwhile.

"We looked at it," he said. "And we thought 'well - given the overall effects of saving a life - opposed to the possible adverse reactions -- that was a no-brainer."

The liability issue was somewhat resolved by House Bill 388, signed by Gov. Jack Markell on Aug. 4, 2014. The bill allowed "peace officers, who passed a DHSS-approved training course to receive, carry, and administer the drug."

The law made carrying the drug voluntary, leaving the decision up to each police department. The agency would have to pay for the Narcan themselves, although DHSS would provide the prescription for the department.

At Addiction Medical Solutions in Rehoboth Beach, Assistant Director Kaci Madison said that the number of heroin users seems to be growing every year in Delaware. She said she hoped other agencies followed OVPD's lead.

"It's almost a security," she said. "You're running into a situation where you have somebody who is overdosed. And it's the potential to maybe save a life. And maybe it will encourage somebody to get into treatment or obtain sobriety."

Each can of Narcan is sold for in between $55 and $75. McLaughlin estimated that this might rise to as high as $100 in 2015. The first batch of ten canisters was purchased by the county, but any future purchases will be made by Ocean View.

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