Columbia Police Department's Sgt. Dallas Dollens on Narcan and law enforcement
For a KBIA special series on substance use and opioid overdose death prevention, Columbia Police Department's Sgt. Dallas Dollens spoke with KBIA’s Kassidy Arena on December 9th about the opioid crisis in our community, and about what our community is doing to address it. Dollens supervises the vice narcotics and organized crime unit.
On opioids and their use within Columbia
Dollens detailed the opioids his department most sees within Columbia: fentanyl, prescription pills (and counterfeit ones) for oxycodone, oxycontin. Prior to that, much of the department dealt with heroine use.
Dollens: This continues to really become a community issue. One of the primary focuses of our unit is we work fatal overdoses. We try to determine the drugs that are killing people, where are they coming from, how are they getting to Columbia, what can we do about it?
On overdose rescues within Columbia
Dollens: Anecdotally I can tell you we’re seeing much more Narcan in the community, which is a great thing. Oftentimes our officers are showing up and they’re going ‘Hey, we’ve already Narcan-ed this person.’
Dollens spoke about the lack of data that exists around the stigmatized topic of overdose - and acknowledged that his numbers of overdoses and overdose deaths in our community are likely an undercount.
On overdose 911 calls to the police department
Narcan is the tool that can immediately reverse an opioid overdose and help prevent death.Narcan is the tool that can immediately reverse an opioid overdose and help prevent death.
Dollens: Unfortunately, we still do see this…I think it's fear of getting in trouble. Fear of, ‘Hey, this is a bad situation.’
...An overdose call is not uncommon for a patrol officer. I mean, it's just something that they deal with. Every officer in our department working patrol is going to deal with that. They're going to respond to multiple overdose calls a year. And so, the good thing is we kind of come prepared.
Columbia police carry a hard, plastic tool kit that contains one dose of Narcan, gloves, a CPR mask and a list of state-funded and private resources/organizations for substance use recovery.
On fear of calling 911 and the 'Good Samaritan' law
When someone calls 911 about a potential overdose, the caller and the person overdosing will not be arrested for having possession of drugs or paraphernalia.
Dollens: I think the heart behind the Good Samaritan law was, to try and encourage people to just call 911. Don’t run, call 911. And I can tell you: our officers, I mean, they’re responding to these overdoses as first responders, okay? We’re law enforcement, we understand there’s a lot of things going on in an overdose, but the primary concern of everyone should be saving a life.
Kassidy Arena: The good news here is that you said you’ve seen a lot more Narcan being used within our community. Can people get in trouble for carrying Narcan on their person?
Dollens: No, you're not gonna get in trouble for having Narcan. That's not something you can be arrested for. It's good for us. I mean, that's the scary thing is we're seeing this increase in deaths, but we also are seeing an increase in people using Narcan. So really, it shows that this is really becoming tragic, the levels, because how many people are being saved, you know? What would our numbers be without that? And so, fortunately, we are seeing that in the community.