Harrisburg one of first metro areas to get life-saving drug in State Police cars

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 7, 2015 1:14 PM

(Manheim, Lancaster County) -- People who overdose on heroin or other opioids will be more likely to get another shot at life under a new program, as every state police crusier will soon be stocked with a life-saving drug.

Naloxone will first be available to troopers in the Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Erie metro areas -- regions that have seen the highest increase of drug overdose calls in the past two years.

But the State Police plans to expand the program to its 1,200 vehicles eventually, with one-time funding from a group of four health insurers.

The antidote, which is also known by its brand name Narcan, reverses an overdose on opioids like heroin or oxycontin.

"Part of the act itself protects law enforcement and first responders in using it. And again, if you see the training, there are very, very little chances of any type of side effect or concern when administering it," says Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown. He isn't concerned about liability issues for troopers who use the drug to assist somone who is overdosing.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Naloxone, with a couple squirts up the nose, can bring someone who is overdosing on heroin back to life.

Brown says nearly the entire State Police force has gone through the online training, and troopers who haven't will complete it by April 15th.

State Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis says he also wants to make sure an addict doesn't turn to drugs again.

"The next step is to get them into treatment after we do the save, and historically, what's happened is people when they get stabilized, they tend to just leave the emergency room," says Tennis.

Tennis is looking at Rhode Island's model, where recovery coaches meet someone in a hospital and try to walk them through options.

Governor Tom Wolf's proposed budget boosts funding for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs by about 13 percent. 

Aetna, Geisinger Health, Health Partner Plans, and Highmark are contributing $100,000 to pay for kits for every state police car, but the commonwealth would be responsible for replacing the naloxone doses when one is used.

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