AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police officers now have access to Narcan, a drug meant to treat someone believed to be suffering from an opioid overdose.
After funding was approved by city council, the department was able to purchase a supply of the drug and they also received enough to replenish their stock.
“I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, then we’re here and we’re available and we have that tool on our tool belt so we can hopefully save a life,” said Assistant Chief of Austin Police Scott Perry.
All front-facing officers who regularly engage with the community will have the opportunity to check out the Narcan when they check out their keys, though it’s not mandatory.
“Our police officers are oftentimes the first ones to respond to scenes where people have overdosed, scenes that are increasingly common due to the out-of-control opioid epidemic,” said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison in a statement. She was one of the driving forces behind the funding. “Equipping them with a life-saving tool like naloxone is a safe, simple, effective and invaluable way to reinforce their vital role as guardians of our public safety.”
Though Chief Perry said it’s often Austin-Travis County EMS medics who arrive first on the scene when it comes to overdose calls, he welcomed the accessibility for officers as well.
Perry said the department previously received a donation from the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative that included Narcan, but APD turned it down.
“We didn’t have procedures in place, we didn’t have protocol in place, we hadn’t had the in depth conversations that we needed to have with the medical director of EMS,” he explained. He added that concerns about the shelf life of the drug also came into question. “We were just not in a position to actually accept that donation at that time.”
Since then, Perry said the department has worked with the Travis County Medical Director to come up with a system for protocols and training.
“This is just another tool for them to not only address violent crime, stabbings or shootings, but now something as far as an overdose, they can possibly help somebody in that situation,” Perry said.
Austin police told KXAN in June the department was finalizing training so officers could carry and use it. At last check the department was still in the process of getting everyone trained.
“You can talk to a number of families that have had family members die because of opioid overdoses and if this was an option to help their loved one or save their loved one, I’m sure that every single one of them would tell you that it was incredibly important that we now have this incredible tool in our tool belt,” said Assistant Chief Perry.