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RPPS use Narcan to combat opioid overdosing

By: Katherne Minkiewicz
February 23, 2018

With opioid use on the rise across the country, Rohnert Park Public Safety officers have started carrying an opioid suppressor that can be used to help save the life of someone who may be overdosing and this particular medication, Narcan, has already been used to save the life of two Rohnert Park residents.

On Jan. 27, Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety officers responded to a call saying that a man in a local apartment complex was not breathing. Upon arrival to the residence officers learned that the man may be suffering complications from a Heroin overdose.

They noticed that the 67-year-old man was barely breathing and administered the Narcan — also known as Naloxone, after determining that he was indeed experiencing the effects of an overdose. After five minutes the patient’s vital signs began to improve and he regained consciousness and was then transported to the hospital.

According to a report released on Nixle of the incident, “If the officers were not recently equipped with this new tool, the patient would have died due to his lack of breathing and circulation.”

Another incident occurred earlier this month, where only weeks later, officers used the medication to save a 22-year-old man who was also overdosing from an opioid.

Rohnert Park fire and police personnel responded Feb. 6 to a Racquet Club Circle resident who was reportedly unresponsive. Upon their arrival the first responders noticed that the male was showing signs of an overdose. Narcan was administered and the victim regained consciousness.

While the 22-year-old refused any further medical treatment following the incident, the man is alive today due to the use of the drug.

Commander Jeff Taylor of the RP Department of Public Safety said Narcan is usually administered through the nasal passages in order to go through the patient’s system.

“We give a spray in one nostril and then the other and each one is individually used for each nostril,” Taylor explained. It then acts to bind the opioid receptors and reverse and or block the effects of the opioid, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. 

Taylor says the department started training with the medication last fall due to the emerging increases in opioid related deaths.

“We started our training in October and got our first shipment sometime around December where we were fully staffed with it then started putting it on the engines and made it available for the officers,” Taylor said.

Having the Narcan on hand may continue to be an extremely useful and lifesaving tool as deaths increase nationwide and as Fentanyl becomes more popular amongst opioid users. Already Rohnert Park is starting to see more opioid related deaths.

According to 2017 statistics from the Sonoma County Coroner’s Office, one-fifth of the cases of death in Rohnert Park were drug-related, affecting an age range of 24-60 for male and females. 

“Opioids are all across the country and reaching higher levels and for us in Sonoma County the training and providing of Narcan as a solution, we recognize that is an epidemic and that it’s increasing,” Taylor explained. The RP Department of Public Safety was the first police agency in the county to start the use of the lifesaving medication.

The other impetus for peace officers to start carrying Narcan, was that last year (2016) alone, there were 34 opioid overdoses in the City of Rohnert Park where Narcan was administered by paramedics Taylor says.

“We wanted to give ourselves a tool to try and save someone who may very well be in their last moments in life. Hopefully after they receive medical care, they can get into a treatment program and move forward in life,” said Commander Aaron Johnson in a statement on Nixle.

The County of Sonoma has also stepped up to try and warn users about the dangers of opioid use, posting a public education radio announcement on the county website.

“Every eight days someone in Sonoma County dies from an accidental drug overdose,” the announcement says.

Negative effects of opioids include the slowing or stopping of breathing, dizziness and hormonal changes. If you or anyone you know think there is an opioid dependence occurring, call (707) 565-7450 and the line can give you a referral for treatment options. 

For more information about opioids, visit: www.sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Services/Opioids.