MAYS LANDING—Atlantic County officials said they hope a new law enforcement initiative will save more lives that are being taken by the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner directed last year all law enforcement within the county to carry naloxone, the opioid antidote medication, in efforts to decrease the number of overdose deaths stemming from a brutal addiction epidemic.
The county-funded program went into effect mid-December and requires all law enforcement to have naloxone, commonly known by brand name Narcan, on hand to help anyone who might suffer an overdose from using heroin, fentanyl, prescription or synthetic opioids.
County law enforcement have used naloxone 359 times between 2015 and now, according to officials. The reversal medication was used seven times more in 2017 than in 2015.
Naloxone has been given 75 times so far this year, which, if that rate continued, would eclipse the number of times it was given last year.
“The significant increase can be directly related to the irresponsible use of fentanyl as a cutting agent to heroin,” Tyner said in a statement. “We believe that the directive . . . will contribute to the saving of lives and in fact we are already starting to see a slight decline in drug related deaths, which corresponds to the increased number of Narcan deployments.”
Atlantic County saw 171 people die from drug overdoses in 2016, which doubled from the previous year, according to state data. Final numbers are not yet available for 2017.
About 60 suspected overdose deaths have been recorded in the county so far this year, according to the state Office of the Attorney General.
State legislation that would urge all county prosecutors to require all law enforcement offices to carry naloxone was approved in the state Assembly earlier this month.