State officials hope a new federal grant will allow police to administer a potentially lifesaving anti-heroin antidote, potentially saving lives that would have been lost to drug overdoses.
The state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) announced last week it has received a federal grant totaling nearly $3.2 million to reduce the number of prescription drug/opioid overdose-related deaths and adverse events in our state.
Acting Director Sara Goldsby told South Carolina Radio Network that the money will be used to equip law enforcement officers with the antidote drug naloxone. “If an officer can keep a person breathing while the ambulance is coming, this is what is saving lives,” Goldsby said.
Goldsby said the state getting the grant was done by working through the relatively new South Carolina Overdose Prevention Project, which was formed as part of the recommendations of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to address the misuse of opioids and other prescription drugs in South Carolina.
DAODAS will partner in this initiative with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office to train first responders at agencies in areas of high need.
The new grant comes months after Haley signed into law a measure that allows naloxone to be sold over-the-counter. Supporters say it could help cut into a growing number of opioid-related deaths without the risk of side effects.
Naloxone is the generic name for an antidote that hospitals will give to patients who overdose on heroin or other opioids. It temporarily blocks opioid receptors to stop the brain’s reaction to the drug. It is normally administered through the nose or bloodstream. The most common label for naloxone is Narcan, which is manufactured by Amphaster Pharmaceuticals.
First-responder training will focus more intensely on law enforcement in the first two years of the grant’s funding, and in the third year will begin including fire departments to reach first responders after education and training materials specific to their profession are developed, and outcomes related solely to law enforcement can be evaluated.
Goldsby said that South Carolina is one of 12 states to receive funding through the five-year grant, which was awarded by the federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.