Police officers in Hunterdon County, New Jersey are one step closer to carrying a heroin antidote.
Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony Kearns along with Bob Wise, president and CEO of Hunterdon Healthcare System and Hunterdon Medical Center, announced a partnership Tuesday.
The hospital is giving $2,500 for the purchase of a drug called Naloxone, also known as Narcan. It can reverse the effects a heroin or other opiate overdose. Officers in the county will go through training and the goal is to have them equipped with a nasal spray form of the drug sometime this summer.
"This heroin epidemic is a public health issue," said Kearns.
"This is a first step in helping save a life, save a family, save a community," Wise said.
Several people attended the announcement and check presentation at Hunterdon Medical Center including county officials, police officers, and emergency responders.
"This heroin epidemic is being fought on many fronts and this is just one of them," said Kearns.
"If the police are equipped with this antidote, they may be in the position to save a life," he added, noting officers are often the first to respond to a scene.
Wise said, "By putting this medication out into the hands of law enforcement, we think that it's an effective way to treat on the scene and hopefully to enable us to get to the youth of Hunterdon County early enough to be able to help redirect them to help."
According to the prosecutor's office, last year Hunterdon County had 15 opiate overdoses, seven of them fatal. There have already been 14 overdoses so far in 2014, four of them fatal. Those are just the ones police know about.
"The prescription narcotics are significant out here and then what happens is the heroin has followed that because it's much cheaper and it's in ready supply," said Kearns.
He added, "We're excited at the prospect of saving lives."