CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids law enforcement officials are pursuing an initiative to arm their officers with an opioid overdose-reversal drug.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department is undergoing a formal request to purchase enough Narcan from a state vendor so every police officer in the city has the antidote on hand in emergency situations, Chief Wayne Jerman said during a Public Safety and Youth Services Committee meeting Monday evening.
Jerman said a state vendor is being connected with the department’s purchasing office. Once the arrangement is finalized, officers will be trained on how to use the opioid overdose-reversal drug.
It is unclear when officers will have the Narcan — the brand name naloxone that can be administered through a nasal spray — as there was a delay in the process, Jerman said. However, he hopes to have it in officers’ hands “as soon as we possibly can.”
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there were 180 opioid related deaths in Iowa in 2016. That estimate is projected to have reached 201 in 2017 — although a final count has not yet been released by the department.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department’s move comes as other agencies — both official and local not-for-profits — continue efforts to reduce the number of overdoses in the Cedar Rapids area. This includes a task force established by the Linn County Department of Public Health to gather data and address specific issues connected to what is considered to have become a crisis in Eastern Iowa and nationwide.
Jerman said the goal is that officers can administer Narcan if they encounter someone experiencing an overdose, which could include a welfare check — a call to which the fire department is not dispatched. The city’s fire department and EMS service, Area Ambulance, have Narcan on hand for emergency calls, while police currently do not.
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“We have a great tiered response, but when you’re on the scene of a situation like that, 60 seconds seems like 60 hours sometimes,” Jerman said.
In addition, Jerman hopes to have the Narcan available for the safety of his officers, who could encounter drugs such as fentanyl that could be absorbed through the skin and cause an overdose.
Jarman said the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, an Eastern Iowa based not-for-profit that aims to reduce overdose deaths, in a July 9 email had offered the Cedar Rapids Police Department injectable Narcan for officer use. The Narcan would have been free of charge, according to City Council member Dale Todd.
Jerman said he declined the offer.
City policy dictates police department purchases be made through a formal request process, he said. The police chief also stated it was standard for law enforcement agencies to use the nasal spray over the injectable Narcan.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller brokered a two-year deal with a California drug manufacturer last year, making public agencies — including law enforcement, emergency medical services and hospitals — eligible for a $6-per-dose rebate on naloxone purchases.
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