Lawmaker hopes to arm all Utah officers with tool to prevent drug overdose deaths

Posted at 10:03 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 00:03:27-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Cottonwood Heights police will go forward with obtaining a life-saving opioid drug to combat overdoses whether or not the Legislature approves a bill that would provide funding for all Utah police agencies to carry the drug.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake City, presented the bill before a House Committee, which received a positive recommendation. The bill would provide money for all Utah officers to carry naloxone, which reverses the effects of a heroin or opiate pain pill overdose in a matter of seconds if it’s administered moments after the OD.

On Feb. 12, the bill went to the House Floor where it awaits a second reading.

"Utah's rate of drug overdose deaths ranks fourth in the nation, over 400 people a year are dying right here in Utah," Spackman said.

Naloxone, also known as narcan, can be administered as a shot or nasal spray.

Cottonwood Heights plans to go forward with arming officers with the drug with local money in hopes the Legislature will eventually approve funding.

Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo said his department has already drafted a policy and is ready to arm their officers with narcan now. His officers could have naloxone in their cars by this summer.

“We believe in the program so much in this city that we’re going to start a seed program and get these things out there on the street,” Russo said.

Russo, a former narcotics officer, said narcan has been available since the 1970s to paramedics and in emergency rooms.

Russo wants his officers to carry narcan since in most cases police are the first on scene at an overdose.

“Our objective is to preserve the life and save the life,” Russo said.

Emergency Room Dr. Jennifer Plumb is a passionate supporter of getting narcan into the hands of as many people as possible and is on board with the Cottonwood Heights plan.

"So I applaud efforts that are addressed, basically at stopping overdoses from becoming fatal," Plumb said.

Plumb lost a brother 20 years ago to a heroin overdose and said it's a pain she wishes on no one.

Plumb said time is critical when someone overdoses -- after about four minutes without oxygen the patient usually dies or has permanent brain damage.

"I don't think myself or anyone who works with patients would ever say naloxone is a fix for this problem but it is certainly a way to keep people alive," she said.