LUMBERTON — Sheriff’s deputies are being armed to fight a drug epidemic that is killing people in Robeson County and across the nation.
About a dozen deputies took part Friday in a training session on the use of Narcan at the county Emergency Management Center on Legend Road. Narcan is a brand name for Naloxone, a drug that when administered can counteract the symptoms of an opioid overdose.
Friday’s was the seventh such class held since Tuesday, and more than 100 Robeson County Sheriff’s Office personnel have been trained, Sheriff Ken Sealey said.
“We got another hundred more we are going to do from the jail,” Sealey said. “… Not only will deputies be trained, office personnel, detention officers are all going to go through that training. And the nursing staff, too.”
The Naloxone program was initiated about a year ago by the Robeson County Emergency Management Services to help curb the rise of narcotic overdoses in the county.
Overdoses are on the rise, said Patrick Cummings, director of Robeson County EMS.
“It is a very serious thing right now,” Cummings said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an epidemic in Robeson County, but we do have a problem.”
Calls to the 911 center pertaining to overdoses rose from 159 in 2016 to 217 in 2017, Cummings said. This number reflects over-the-counter medications, alcohol and accidental overdoses.
There are about 62 agencies across the state that are administrating Narcan, he said. Time is crucial when it comes to overdoses.
“There may be a call come in near Pembroke and EMS is in St. Pauls,” Cummings said. “A deputy may be around the corner for example, they won’t feel helpless. They now have a tool where they can intervene and bring them back.”
Robeson County EMS responded to two heroin overdose calls within the county in the past 10 days, he said. Narcan was used and two lives were saved.
“We are excited about the program,” Cummings said. “We strive for a positive outcome when we get these type calls. It proved to be effective.”
The Sheriff’s Office is receiving many overdose calls, Sheriff Sealey said.
“We don’t want them (deputies) to feel helpless. We are giving them a tool that can do something,” Sealey said. “We can save a life by knowing what to do when they come across an overdose situation.”
Rico Rivera, a tactical paramedic with Robeson County EMS, who also works for the Maxton Police Department, was the instructor during Friday’s class.
Teaching law enforcement how to administer Narcan plays a vital role in reversing the effects of an overdose, Rivera said.
“Typically in the county it can take an ambulance 10 to 15 minutes just to get there. Law enforcement typically get there before us to secure the scene,” he said. “I think they can definitely intervene and make a difference on these patients.”
Time is of the essence, Rivera said. The brain starts to die quickly if deprived of oxygen.
“Typically six to seven minutes, brain damage starts setting in,” Rivera said. “The drug actually makes them start breathing again. It is an antidote.”
Even though heroin is the most potent drug when dealing with overdoses, the most common would be pain pills such as Percocet and Darvocet, Rivera said.
Narcan isn’t used only for substance abusers, Cummings said. It also is used when people take the incorrect prescription dose, and when children and the elderly accidentally ingest medications.
The Narcan program is open to all law enforcement agencies in the county. Maxton and Pembroke police departments already have been trained. The Parkton Police Department will be introduced to program by the end of February.
Several rescue units across the county also have the capacity to administer the drug.
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