A Lacey Township police officer used the heroin antidote Narcan to save the life of a 30-year-old woman who was unconscious after a heroin overdose Wednesday morning.
It was the fifth time a police officer in the county had used the antidote on an overdose victim since officers began carrying it two weeks ago.
Heroin overdose deaths in Ocean County have decreased this year over last, a fact authorities attribute to a nearly year-long campaign to raise awareness, increase education and focus law enforcement efforts.
“Last year, we saw in an eight-day span in April, nine people die of heroin overdoses. Maybe the tide is turning and we’re saving lives now. What a difference a year makes,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, who took office in March 2013 when drug overdoses were frequent.
Even so, the heroin supply and use in the county has not slowed down and the purity is now about 70 percent, according to the latest Drug Enforcement Agency data.
Heroin continues to enter Ocean County at a steady rate from several directions, including Atlantic City, Pleasantville, Camden, Philadelphia, Newark and North Paterson, Coronato has said.
The county has seen 25 fatal drug overdoses this year, with 20 of them connected to heroin, said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. At this time last year, the county had seen 40 fatal drug overdoses, 30 of them linked to heroin, Della Fave said.
Lacey Township police Sgt. Paul Sullivan responded to a medical emergency 10:54 a.m. Wednesday at a Frog Hollow Road address in the Forked River section of the township.
Sullivan found a 30-year-old woman unresponsive with shallow breathing and a weak pulse. Sullivan administered the Narcan spray and the woman became responsive and alert within three minutes. Lacey Township First Aid Squad transported the woman to Southern Ocean Medical Center where she is recovering, police said.
Meanwhile, three Seaside Heights police officers have saved the lives of three heroin overdose victims in two weeks using Narcan. Two of those saves took place within 17 hours of each other on Tuesday, police said.
“This just goes to show how bad our heroin epidemic is, and it was put on the back burner for so long because everyone thought the heroin addict was the guy in the alley with a needle in his arm,” said Seaside Heights police Chief Thomas Boyd.
It was just before 3 a.m. Tuesday when Seaside Heights Patrolman Erik Hershey responded to a call about an unconscious 22-year-old woman at the Desert Palm Inn on North Ocean Avenue in Seaside Park.
“She was unconscious, and when I gave her Narcan, in 20 seconds she sat up on the bed and was talking to me,” said Erik Hershey.
The immediate signs of life were in stark contrast to previous drug overdoses when officers didn’t have Narcan, Hershey said.
“Before, we could administer oxygen and chest compressions, but there wasn’t much we could do except wait for EMS to get there. It was frustrating, especially with the number of overdoses I’ve seen in my career,” he said.
That same Tuesday, Patrolman Edward Pasieka would save another life in Seaside Heights.
About 8:30 p.m., Pasieka responded to a 911 call about a heroin overdose at a home on Sampson Avenue.
When Pasieka arrived, he found a 22-year-old woman lying on the floor, unconscious, her pulse weak, her breathing shallow.
Pasieka administered the Narcan spray into the woman’s nostrils; nearly 10 minutes later the woman was awake, her pulse strong and her breathing normal.
“We had three overdoses and three saves, so I would say Narcan is working,” Pasieka said Wednesday.
Coronato unveiled his plans in January to equip officers with the antidote, also known as naxolone.
The program was unveiled after Ocean County saw 112 fatal drug overdoses last year, a big jump from the 53 in 2012.
Seaside Heights Patrolman Daniel Davis, 23, was the first officer in the state to administer the antidote, just three days after Ocean County departments began carrying it.
On April 6, Davis administered the drug to a 24-year-old man he found unconscious on a bed at the Dry Dock Motel.
“Definitely my adrenaline was pumping, and I was thinking about the training I just finished three days ago. The training was excellent and it definitely worked,” Davis said.
“It’s a great feeling to see this. You read about it working, but seeing firsthand is something else,” he said.
Meanwhile, in nearby Manchester Township Tuesday evening, a 28-year-old man was revived by emergency medical personnel with Narcan following a suspected heroin overdose.
Police responded to the Briar Hill Apartments, where they found John E. Redden III unresponsive. Redden was visiting a friend’s apartment when the overdose occurred and that friend called authorities for help, police said.
Emergency medical personnel administered Narcan and Redden regained conciousness.
At the scene, police found Redden in possession of six wax folds of heroin, but he will not face drug charges under the Overdose Prevention Act signed into law on May 2, 2013.
Redden was caring for his 2-year-old son at the time of the overdose and police charged him with one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Redden's bail was set at $35,000 with no 10 percent option, police said.
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