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Group Pushes for Police to Carry Overdose Drug

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Columbia Police could be the next first responders to carry a life-saving drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose.

The Columbia Fire Department started carrying naloxone last month. The drug is more commonly known as Narcan. According to the Narcan website, the drug works by displacing opioid molecules, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses like slowed breathing and unresponsiveness.

Although the Columbia Fire Department has been carrying the drug since January 26, the department has yet to administer the drug, according to Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer. 

The drug is a nasal spray that is used on patients who appear to have overdosed on opioids. If a person isn’t overdosing on opioids, the drug would have no effects.

Brandon Costerison is the project manager for MO-HOPE, an organization working to equip Missouri first responders with naloxone. He said the Columbia police and fire departments started their efforts to carry the drug through his organization.

Carrying the drug costs nothing for the police and fire departments, according to Costerison. A federal grant funding MO-HOPE pays for the effort.

Columbia police spokesperson Bryana Larimer said the department is expecting to carry the drug within the next couple months.

Costerison said the Columbia Fire Department decided to start its own training to carry the drug. The Columbia Police Department is still working with MO-HOPE.

“Right now we’re just trying to figure out how and when to get training scheduled,” Costerison said.

Officers legally have to be trained on how to assess an overdose and administer the drug. Costerison said the MO-HOPE project does more than that.

“We talk a lot about opioid use as a substance use disorder, as a mental health condition,” he said.

That means promoting positive interactions with the victim and loved ones or witnesses immediately surrounding the victim.

The battle to fight drug overdoses and recovery, though, doesn’t stop with Narcan, Costerison said.

“The biggest hurdle we sometime see comes from community members,” he said. “One of the comments that you see on social media is that these people did it to themselves and they get what they deserve. What the general public has to understand is that we’re dealing with a mental health condition and without this life-saving medication, these individuals have no chance at recovery, because they’d be dead.”

Costerison’s organization works to equip agencies statewide, but is largely focused in St. Louis. He said his effort is successful and has already saved more than 60 lives in two departments alone.