State heralds police officers for more than 635 overdose saves in 15 months

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 1, 2016 6:54 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack gestures to the police officers behind him, most of which have saved someone from an opioid overdose using the antidote naloxone.

(Harrisburg) -- The police officers lined the marble steps inside the Capitol rotunda, and spilled onto a second level of stairs.

They were there to be honored by the state for giving a life-saving drug to someone who was overdosing on heroin or another opioid like Oxycontin.

In total, police statewide have reversed more than 635 overdoses in about 15 months.

Gary Tennis, secretary of the state's Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs stepped to the podium first, and simply turned around.

"What an event, you all back there have no idea how inspiring you are, to stand here and look at you and you put your lives on the line every day, and you have an expansive view of this project, this is just so inspirational," he said.

"This is not what police officers signed up to do, to get criminals off the street, and yet again and again, they have undertaken this noble task of protecting and standing up to save the lives of our most vulnerable people: those that are suffering with heroin and opioid addiction."

A state law to allow first responders to carry naloxone went into effect in November 2014.

Democratic state Representative Dan Frankel of Allegheny County remembers a prominent member of the community meeting with him after the naloxone law went into effect.

He choked up telling the story.

"Came to me after this legislation passed and thanked me."

"And [they] said it saved our son's life."

According to the state, every police department in York and Lancaster counties carries the critical overdose antidote, while other counties only have partial coverage or no police carrying naloxone.

The saves using the antidote naloxone include more than 160 saves in the midstate.

Police simply squirt it up the nose of someone who has overdosed on heroin or other opioids like Oxycontin, and it can bring them back to life in as little as 30 seconds.

The state has pushed every department to put naloxone in patrol cars because police often arrive at an overdose before emergency paramedics.

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