Phelps County law enforcement officers are currently being trained to use the opiate response drug Narcan after Phelps County Regional Medical (PCRMC) obtained a grant to purchase it for the community.

Phelps County law enforcement officers are currently being trained to use the opiate response drug Narcan after Phelps County Regional Medical (PCRMC) obtained a grant to purchase it for the community.

Rolla Chief of Police, Sean Fagan said local law enforcement has been trying to find a way to bring Narcan to the community for a long time, and he’s thankful to be able to begin having his officers carry the drug. The Missouri State Highway Patrol has already been using it, according to Chief Fagan, administering it to opiate overdose victims.

The drug works by targeting opiate receptors in the brain, removing any opiates the subject has consumed. While heroin is the most common occurrence, the drug serves as an antidote to any opiate. The drug functions as a nasal spray, helping victims to quickly recover from an overdose. 

“It’s amazing how quickly it works,” said Chief Fagan. “You’ll see people blue with no pulse and you’ll hit them with it, they’ll suddenly wake up.” He explained victims who have consumed a large dose of opiates might require additional doses of Narcan, but the opiate antidote, as he called it, has proven effective.

The inclusion of Narcan in a law enforcement officer’s arsenal is increasingly important as the potency and risk of opiates evolve. 

“We carry these for ourselves too,” Chief Fagan explained. “Right now there’s heroin out there that if you come into contact through the skin, you can overdose.”

This certain type of heroin is mixed with fentanyl according to Chief Fagan, and is becoming more common due to it’s low cost. However, the drug is also more dangerous, with deaths and overdoses occurring at lower dosage levels. 

Chief Fagan said one of the dangers modern officers face is this type of drug, which they can easily come in contact with over the course of their job.

“It’s so deadly now that we worry about doing a search warrant, that it might be in the air,” said Chief Fagan. He confirmed there have been cases in Phelps County of officers overdosing because they came into physical contact with his type of heroin, which goes through latex gloves. 

“The people don’t realize it’s so potent and powerful—that’s why we’re getting so many overdoses,” Chief Fagan said. “We’ve had quite a few overdoses in the Phelps County area with this stuff already, which is one of the reasons why we had such a push to try and get this.”

The main obstacle to acquiring Narcan in Phelps County, was the cost, according to Chief Fagan. Law enforcement looked at several different grants, but it wasn’t until PCRMC found a grant specifically for hospitals that they were able to find the funds. Chief Fagan said it was PCRMC employee Starlyn Reynolds that helped win the grant, and is the one currently training law enforcement officers on how to use the drug.

When the drug was first developed, Chief Fagan said there wasn’t much of a drive to acquire it, because it was already stocked in county ambulances. However, as police officers and the fire department became the first responders on the scene, it was clear they needed to have the drug with them as well. Chief Fagan said that by having it on hand, many overdose victims are given an extra chance.

“Right now there’s an opiate epidemic in the United States, not just in Rolla,” Chief Fagan said. The job of the police department is to be there for the community and that includes people who are addicted to heroin. Any time we can use one of these to save somebody, that’s a good thing.

Chief Fagan said that as soon as the department finishes training, every officer will carry two doses with them, with some held in reserve. The fire departments have been given the drug as well, and are also attending the training.  Should the departments use what they’ve been given, Chief Fagan said they will be able to reapply for the grant.
“Hopefully we don’t have to use it,” he said. “But it could save a life.”