The opioid public health crisis that began years ago in other parts of the country recently surging across New York City, now has an additional opponent to combat: the 39 men and women of the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department.
This week, half of the department’s officers completed a special training, which allows PSD to carry a portable-pocket size device that injects the opiate antidote, naloxone, at the emergency response scenes of drug overdoses. The second half of officers will complete the training next week.
“Naloxone, also called Narcan, saves lives by immediately reversing the effects of heroin, a citizen could be suffering from,” PSD Chief Jack McManus said Thursday after announcing the move to allow the peace officers to carry and administer the prescription medication
More than 20,000 City of New York Police Department (NYPD) police officers also carry naloxone.
During the past three years, there were an estimated 2,700 overdose deaths in New York City; a toll that’s more than twice the combined numbers of murders and traffic deaths recorded in the city during that same period.
Some of the biggest jumps in overdose incidents and death rates for heroin use in the metro area include youth between the ages of 18-to-34 years old; and of citizens living in the North Bronx, eastern Queens, Westchester County and Long Island, city and federal data show.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half a million-people died, across the country from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2015. Opioid use specifically is increasing, with heroin deaths tripling nationwide in the same period. Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose.
In September 2016, the U.S. Office of the Attorney General issued a memorandum calling the opioid epidemic a “public health crisis.” The memorandum called for the use of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths.
Police officers, who increasingly end up serving as first responders in drug overdose situations, have played a significant role in fighting the overdose epidemic in other cities across the county.
“This crisis has become a national public health emergency,” McManus said. “I’m very proud that our department is not only prepared to enforce laws about narcotics, but also potentially save lives of those suffering from narcotics, as well.”
This training was the last chapter in a series of mental health sessions; focusing on family, mental health and senior citizens. RIOC acknowledges the work of Island resident Lynne Shinozaki in producing this series.