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Heroin antidote to be distributed to cops statewide

NEW YORK – The Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program, which will enable every state and local law-enforcement officer in the state of New York to carry naloxone, the extremely effective heroin antidote that can instantly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose was unveiled on Thursday. COP will provide funding to equip each state or local officer with naloxone, known under the brand name Narcan, and train the officers to properly administer the life-saving drug.

Last month, United States Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged law-enforcement agencies throughout the United States to “train and equip their personnel” with naloxone. This call comes in the wake of a marked increase in heroin abuse throughout New York and the United States. Opioid overdoses killed over 2,000 New Yorkers in 2011, more than double the number killed in 2004. Across the country, fatal heroin doses increased 45% from 2006-2010. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that these numbers are still on the rise. 

“Heroin is destroying our communities, and it’s time we looked at broader solutions to fight back,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Naloxone is stunningly effective at stopping an overdose in its tracks, and putting this powerful antidote in the hands of every law-enforcement agent in the state will save countless lives. With I-STOP, we’ve managed to reduce doctor-shopping in New York and turn off one spigot in the drug crisis — now, we can turn our focus to the scourge caused by heroin. It’s particularly fitting that these efforts will be funded by money seized from drug dealers.”

The Attorney General’s office has identified $5 million in joint federal-state criminal and civil forfeiture money that will be used to fund COP, which is enough to equip and train every state and local officer in New York with a naloxone kit. Each kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing two prefilled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and a booklet on the use of the drug. The cost of a naloxone kit is approximately $60, and the shelf life of each kit is approximately two years. 

The Attorney General’s office will be sending a letter this week to every state and local law-enforcement agency making them aware of the program and encouraging them to participate. Upon purchase of the kits and/or upon payment for training costs, police departments or appropriate county or city agencies will submit receipts to the Attorney General’s office and be reimbursed in full. Some agencies already have partial naloxone programs in place and, in those instances, COP will allow for an expansion of these programs. 

The success of naloxone in combatting opioid overdoses cannot be overstated. Since the fall of 2010, the police department of Quincy, Massachusetts, the first department in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone, has used the drug 221 times and successfully reversed 211 overdoses (as of February), a success rate of over 95%. In New York’s Suffolk County, 563 lives were saved last year alone.

Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has been extremely aggressive in combatting the scourge of heroin in New York. He led the effort to rein in prescription opioid abuse by passing unanimous legislation to create I-STOP – the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing. Initial figures indicate that I-STOP has reduced doctor-shopping – the practice of going from doctor to doctor to accumulate prescriptions – by 75% in just the first year.

On the criminal side, I-STOP has led to the prosecution of several doctors who willingly participate in doctor-shopping. Separately, the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force has successfully dismantled a number of heroin rings around the state. Most recently, OCTF secured nine convictions related to its takedown of a home-grown, Albany-based street gang called the Original Gangsta Killas.