The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust

Two additional Lehigh County Police Departments will begin administering Naloxone in overdose cases

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced on Thursday, June 30, 2016, that two additional Lehigh County police departments will begin using the opioid reversal antidote, Naloxone, in overdose cases. Martin said a memorandum of understanding was entered into between the District Attorney’s Office and the Allentown Police Department and the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Police Department.

“The importance of this Naloxone administration program cannot be overstated,” Martin said. “Currently, opiate overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Lehigh County. When certain requirements are met, detectives and officers who have been trained are able to administer Naloxone to individuals experiencing an opioid-related overdose. This program saves lives and combats the destructive effects that overdoses have on families and our communities.”

“The Allentown Police Department is excited about the opportunity to partner with the Lehigh County District Attorney’s office and put the overdose reversal drug Naloxone into the hands of all of our patrol officers,” said Allentown Chief of Police Keith Morris. “Seconds matter for overdose victims, and we are now giving our officers the tools they need to potentially save lives,” he added.

Martin said the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, reported an increase in overdose deaths from 2.7 to 15.4 per thousand from 1990-2011. Between 2009 and 2013, nearly 3,000 heroin-related overdose deaths were identified by coroners in Pennsylvania, 40 of which were in Lehigh County, according to Martin.

“Heroin overdoses are not limited to urban areas,” Martin said, adding that the epidemic has spread to rural and suburban areas. “Abuse and overdose continue to escalate, affecting every age group and every demographic,” he added.

Martin said the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association (PDAA) received a grant from Capital BlueCross to help district attorneys in the 21 counties in which it does business to acquire a supply of Naloxone for their police departments. Martin said that a grant also was received from the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust for training and the acquisition of Naloxone kits.

Quarterly reports on deployment and use of Naloxone are submitted to the PDAA so that the effectiveness of the program can be evaluated, Martin said.

The program was established in conjunction with the PDAA, Capital BlueCross and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Opioid drugs include morphine, heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, Percocet, Percodan, methadone, Codeine and hydrocodone.

Martin stated that Act 139 of 2014 amended the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act to provide immunity from criminal prosecution and from “any civil damages for acts or omissions resulting” from the administration of Naloxone by police officers.

Martin noted that designated police officers have two doses of the prescription drug at the beginning of their shifts and return unused doses at the end of their shifts. When an officer uses the drug, the officer submits a report.

The policy for use states that an officer should immediately summon emergency medical services when the officer encounters someone suffering from an opioid drug overdose. The policy also instructs officers to provide CPR and other necessary emergency treatment and instructs them in how to administer Naloxone if the person is not breathing adequately or does not have a pulse.

In order to administer Naloxone, all officers from Allentown and the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority have completed the online training as mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Drugs and Alcohol.