Heroin overdoses prompt push for sheriff's deputies to carry antidote

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 5:51 PM

A push is on in Hennepin County to allow sheriff’s deputies to carry an antidote to heroin and other opiates that can be given to someone who is overdosing.

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Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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A push is on by Hennepin County to allow sheriff’s deputies to carry an antidote to heroin and other opiates that can be given to someone who is overdosing.

The proposal being addressed Tuesday afternoon at a State Capitol news conference comes amid a wave of heroin overdose fatalities in Minnesota. Last year, there were 35 people just in Hennepin and Ramsey counties who died of heroin overdoses, according to state health records.

Heroin and other opiates, including prescription drug abuse, killed 129 people in the two counties in 2012.

The antidote is called Narcan. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek will join state DFL Sen. Chris Eaton, of Brooklyn Center, in urging the creation of new laws that would allow deputies to administer Narcan, which can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose, bringing a person from unconscious to complaining in just minutes.

For Eaton, the issue is personal: Her daughter, Ariel Eaton-Willson, died in 2007 of a heroin overdose in a Burger King parking lot.

Along with allowing law enforcement officers to carry the antidote, the bill also would give amnesty to those who call for help in the event of an overdose. Rather than immediately calling for help, Eaton-Willson’s friend cleaned out the car, throwing two needles away.

In Wisconsin, the La Crosse Fire Department is first in line for a yearlong pilot program to train firefighters to use Narcan, the trade name for naloxone. It’s been done in New York and Massachusetts, also, where cities have since reported decreases in overdose deaths.

Paramedics with Tri-State Ambulance — which serves 2,200 square miles in Minnesota, Wisconsin and a sliver of Iowa — have carried the antidote for decades and have seen usage of late surge. Tri-State paramedics are on track to give naloxone 195 times this year, compared to 124 times in 2010. Three-fourths of those uses were for heroin overdoses, Tri-State estimated.

 

Star Tribune staff writer Jenna Ross contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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