December 18, 2014

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Drug-treatment program with Lorain County roots expanding statewide

A program with roots in Lorain County that aims to combat the growing number of heroin deaths is expanding statewide.

On Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine launched a 20-minute training video online to teach police across the state how to use Narcan — also called naloxone — which is a synthetic narcotic that revives a person suffering from an opiate overdose.

Last year, Lorain County became the first county in Ohio to allow emergency responders, including police, to use Narcan on people suffering from overdoses as a result of the program Deaths Avoided with Naloxone.

Narcan saved 42 lives in nine months, according to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans.

In March, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill allowing all police, health professionals and family and friends to use Narcan on someone who has taken a heroin overdose.

However, while Narcan is easy to use, some police officers felt uncomfortable with it at first, according to Evans, who led training sessions in Lorain County to teach police how and when to administer the drug.

“Initially there’s a little resistance,” Evans said, adding that it was important for police to understand that their primary goal in administering the Narcan is to save a person’s life. “This is a real shift in the paradigm … We want them to go from cops and criminals to lifesavers and victims.”

While police agencies in Lorain County have been using Narcan since October, other agencies across the state are relatively new to the drug. DeWine’s office hopes to change that with the video released this week.

“We hope this new training will help officers across the state feel confident in carrying and administering Naloxone because we know from the success of the pilot project in Lorain County that law enforcement officers who carry Naloxone can save lives,” DeWine wrote in an email Friday.

The training is a result of efforts among Lorain police, DeWine’s office and members of the Alcohol and Addiction Services Board to create a video that addresses concerns police and citizens may have with Narcan, as well as teaching the viewers how to administer the drug.

For Evans, the statewide effect is a victory.

“Our little project in Lorain County may be responsible for saving thousands of lives,” he said.

The video can be found online.

Contact Anna Merriman at 329-7245 or amerriman@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnaLMerriman.