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Loyola Medicine, Cook County Train 30 Police Departments on Using Narcan® to Combat Opioid Crisis

News Date: 
Thursday, February 1, 2018 - 16:30

More than 1,900 officers from 30 suburban Cook County police departments, Cook County Sheriff's Department and Cook County Forest Preserve Police will soon be equipped to administer Narcan® when they encounter someone overdosing from opioids, thanks to a collaboration between Loyola Medicine and the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Narcan® counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.

"Opioids are a public health scourge that afflict residents throughout our communities and that we must confront," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "Putting an antidote in the hands of our first responders and training them how to properly use it will save countless lives."  

In Cook County, there were more than 1,000 opioid deaths in 2017. The Cook County Health & Hospitals System saw more than 5,000 opioid-related emergency department visits in 2016, up from 1,000 visits in 2006.

Loyola Medicine's Mark Cichon, DO, chair of emergency medicine and director of emergency medical services, said the train-the-trainer Law Enforcement Narcan® Program (LENP) is one of the first in the state to have direct medical oversight.

"It is vitally important that our police officers know how to recognize someone suffering an opioid overdose and act quickly to safely administer the overdose reversal drug," Dr. Cichon said. "This program will create a standard of care and a consistency from one police department to the next so we can all tackle this epidemic together."

Three training sessions have already been conducted. Officers with the Bellwood Police Department put their training to use within days.

"When minutes make the difference, it means the world to us to have this ability to save lives," said Bellwood Acting Police Chief Jiminez Allen.

Illinois' Heroin Crisis Act, passed in September 2015, required all police officers to carry naloxone, the generic name for Narcan®, and be trained to administer, store and transport it. Due to cost and limited access to training, not all departments have been compliant.

This program is funded by a $311,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.

Under LENP, Cook County is the liaison with the police departments and organizes all trainings. Loyola is responsible for all required medical paperwork, leading all training sessions, and ordering, suppling and restocking all medications for participating police departments.

The protocol for LENP is a 4 mg, naloxone nasal spray administered by inserting the tip into a nostril and pushing the plunger firmly.

Naloxone works by blocking opiates – heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and carfentanil – from the receptor sites in the brain. 

The nasal spray dosage used by first responders is higher and more effective than the over-the-counter version. And compared with an injectable version, the nasal spray is easier to use, costs less, absorbs as quickly and triggers a milder reaction on patients.

Police officers are trained to recognize an overdose when patients are exhibiting some of these symptoms: pinpoint pupils (center of the eye is very small); will not wake or respond to voice or touch; fingernails and lips turning blue or purple; breathing is slow, irregular or has stopped; slow heartbeat and/or low blood pressure.

After administering naloxone, patients should be put into a recovery position on one side with a knee against the floor and head titled back to open the airway. Since opioids outlast naloxone, patients may begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms in 30 minutes to an hour, such as nausea, shivering, rapid heartbeat and seizures. Patients should be taken immediately to an emergency department.

Naloxone is safe for adults and children. If mistakenly given to someone who is not overdosing, naloxone will not cause harm, since there is no overdose to reverse.

After completing training, each police officer will be given two 4-mg. doses of naloxone, which cost about $100 for a packet of two (compared with $2,000 per injectable dose). Officers will keep the naloxone on their person at all times during active duty.

The following police departments are participating in this program:

  • Bellwood
  • Bensenville
  • Berkeley
  • Berwyn
  • Broadview
  • Brookfield
  • Cicero
  • Forest Park
  • Forest View
  • Franklin Park
  • Hillside
  • LaGrange
  • LaGrange Park
  • Lyons
  • Maywood
  • McCook
  • Melrose Park
  • North Riverside
  • Northlake
  • Oak Park
  • River Forest
  • River Grove
  • Riverside
  • Schiller Park
  • Stone Park
  • Westchester
  • Western Springs
  • Brookfield Zoo Police
  • Cook County Sheriff's Police
  • Cook County Forest Preserve Police

After learning about naloxone, police officers will be trained to apply tourniquets on themselves and others as part of a separate initiative to combat gun violence. The trained officers receive enough trauma dressings for their entire department. Loyola has also trained 1,800 EMS providers and given green jump bags containing combat tourniquets, trauma dressings, tactical surgical kits, ARS needles used for decompression and vented chest seals.