Raleigh man pushes for police to carry heroin antidote; Coalition reports more than 5,000 saved since 911 law

More than 5,000 people have been saved from heroin overdoses since the General Assembly passed the 911 Good Samaritan Law in 2013, according to the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition.

The law allows limited immunity to people seeking medical help for an overdose and grants immunity to anyone who administers naloxone, an opioid antidote also known as Narcan. It also allows community-based organizations to distribute the antidote.

Brett Nelson of Raleigh was featured in a News and Observer article last week after his 28-year-old brother died of a heroin overdose in Fuquay-Varina. Nelson created an online petition just days after his older brother’s death to urge police departments and other law enforcement agencies to equip their officers with Narcan and there were 500 signatures within the first three hours.

[He] posted the petition to help “drive awareness” about the epidemic; the number of people who died of overdoses of heroin and other opioid drugs in North Carolina has exploded, from 150 in 1999 to 1,110 last year, according to the state Division of Public Health. Getting Narcan into the hands of law officers would be one way to save more lives, Nelson said.

“This is sort of the middle ground to get people really behind it,” he said about the petition. “You can’t stop heroin. It’s kind of too late for that.”

The coalition provided training to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, which started equipping deputies with Narcan in September, the newspaper reports.

Police officers and sheriff’s deputies with 136 law agencies across the state are equipped with Narcan, Coalition spokeswoman Tessie Castillo told the newspaper. In the Triangle, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, along with police departments in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Clayton carry the overdose antidote or soon will.

Castillo said that financing was often an issue with getting police departments equipped with the antidote.

“The most common response is, ‘We have a very fast EMS system in the Triangle that gets to the scene prior to law enforcement arriving.’”

But Castillo said when the coalition reviewed statewide data, the largest number of overdose reversals by police were taking place in larger urban areas like Fayetteville, Wilmington and Greenville.

“The EMS system is fast,” she said, “but police are faster.”

Legislators have been well acquainted with bills about Narcan. Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation earlier this year making Narcan available without a prescription to North Carolinans.

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