Authorities announced Wednesday that police have saved the first life after a heroin overdose since officers began carrying the opioid antidote Narcan last month.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said Seaside Heights police administered Narcan, also known as naloxone, to an unidentified male subject Sunday morning at about 2:18 a.m.
Officers had responded to a local motel after a report of an unresponsive man, Coronato said.
When police arrived the individual was unconscious and not breathing, Coronato said.
Once police administered the drug, the individual regained consciousness and was transported by Tri-Boro First Aid Squad to Community Medical Center, Toms River.
“It’s a good day when you can say you saved someone’s life,” Coronato said.
Coronato said the victim cannot be identified because the incident was a first aid call and is subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Coronato launched the push to equip Ocean County police officers in 32 law enforcement agencies in December. The move came as there were 112 drug overdose deaths in the county last year — most of them connected to heroin — more than doubling 2012’s death toll of 53.
So far this year the county has seen 20 drug overdose deaths with 17 connected to heroin, authorities said.
“We knew that if we were able to get the program out, there was the likelihood it was going to save a life, and now we see that it does. Now it’s important to get program out to all police officers as soon as possible,” he said.
He said he saw the success of Narcan use in other states and knew that Ocean County had no choice but to incorporate the program.
The Prosecutor’s Office paid for the first round of Narcan with county drug forfeiture money. Narcan costs about $25 a dose.
The Barnegat Township and Surf City police departments are also carrying Narcan on the road in patrol cars as of last week, Coronato said.
Seaside Heights police started carrying Narcan last Wednesday and 72 hours later they used the drug successfully on the unconscious man, he said.
“It’s not a great thing they had to use it so quickly, but it’s good that it’s there. I just read that there were two deaths in Cape May County. If they’re dead we can’t do much, but if they’re breathing we can step in and help,” said Dr. Ken Lavelle an emergency room physician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa., who conducted the training in February for Ocean County police officers and EMTs.
“Hopefully, this man gets into rehab now,” Lavelle said.
Police attended Lavelle’s training in February to administer Narcan. All police officers in Ocean and Monmouth counties are now carrying Narcan as part of pilot program unveiled last week by Gov. Chris Christie and the state Attorney General’s Office.
Lavelle said he is scheduling more Narcan training sessions with the Monmouth and Camden County Prosecutor’s Offices to instruct police officers there to carry and administer the drug.
Lavelle said he has also discussed Narcan with officials from the New Jersey State Police and their plans to equip troopers with the drug.
He added that Narcan is needed most in rural areas where certain State Police stations are responsible for patrolling.
“If someone overdoses at two in the morning, troopers are going to get there most likely before an ambulance. In these areas, the local ambulance is usually volunteer and it could take between 15 or 20 minutes before an ambulance gets there.
In places such as Camden and Atlantic City, EMS ambulance arrive at first aid calls quicker because they are not made up of volunteer crews, he said.
On Tuesday, Paul Loriquet, spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, said state troopers will be equipped with Narcan in rural policing zones within the pilot program area of Ocean and Monmouth counties as soon as possible. Troopers in the remaining rural patrol zones will be equipped with the drug once the results of the pilot program in Ocean and Monmouth counties are released.
Troopers assigned to highway patrols across the state have not been ruled out for carrying the drug as well, Loriquet said.
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