Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk explained that his officers will start carrying opioid overdose kits containing the nasal spray form of naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, in their squad cars after recently receiving training through Allina Health.
“The first responders will continue to use a needle to administer the naloxone, while our officers will start carrying the nasal spray,” Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk said. “We decided to go with the nasal spray because it was the easiest way for us to administer it after having discussions around our office and talking with other sheriff offices across the state who carry the opioid overdose kits.”
If naloxone is needed in a critical situation, Caulk explained it will only work if certain parameters are met.
“If a person is in need of naloxone, they will receive .5 milligrams to each nostril,” Caulk said. “But the Narcan will only work if a person is still breathing, their heart is still pumping and blood is still flowing throughout their body.”
Caulk said his officers received training in administering the naloxone and what signs to look for in a possible drug overdose.
“Our officers will look for pinpoint pupils, labored breathing and drug paraphernalia, such as needles,” Caulk said. “We will try to open up the airways, get oxygen into the person and keep them breathing. If their airways are open and they are breathing, we can give them one dose of the Narcan. Then we wait a few minutes, and if they are progressing, we can give them another round.”
Caulk cautions people from calling Narcan “a wonder drug.”
“This is not a wonder drug, but it is our job as law enforcement officers to try to save lives,” Caulk said. “Unfortunately people are using Narcan as a ‘wonder drug’ and are becoming reliant on it.”
Caulk’s department has a three-page department policy on what Narcan is, how it is administered, signs of an opioid overdose and training information.
“We are hearing stories of heroin parties where someone is bringing the Narcan and acting as the designated sober person, ready to administer the Narcan as soon as someone passes out,” Caulk said. “But just like with all addictions, maybe after getting so many shots of Narcan it will be the wake-up call someone needs to get the help they need. Maybe if someone gets three different shots, they wouldn’t have to go back a fourth time and we have succeeded.”
Caulk cautioned Narcan should not be used on adolescents and noted if Narcan is administered on someone who should not receive it, the only known side effect is irritation to the nose.
“Narcan has been used and talked about for the last two years among law enforcement agencies,” Caulk said. “We decided to move forward with the opioid overdose kits after discussions amongst staff in this office and our deputies.”
The cost of each opioid kit is $65, but Caulk said the replacement pieces, the medicine and the syringe injected into the nose, costs $35. He said the replacement costs will be funded through the Metropolitan Emergency Services Board.
“Many sheriff departments across the state have used Narcan and have used it successfully,” Caulk said. “There are times when someone may come to after having a dose of Narcan and they might not like it, and may try to fight with us, but we will use handcuffs if necessary to protect our officers. There could be times when someone is passed out, but breathing, and when they come too they could be agitated.”
Isanti County Investigator Wayne Seiberlich, who sits on the East Central Drug and Violent Offender Task Force, explained opioids are a concern.
“Heroin is on the rise in Isanti County and so are synthetic opioids in general,” Seiberlich said. “Our latest concern are the opioids being laced with fentanyl, which can be lethal to the touch.”
Seiberlich cautions the public about misconceptions associated with Narcan.
“We are concerned that the public thinks this is a cure. It has to be used within a certain time, six minutes, and after eight minutes, if a person still isn’t breathing, they could be facing permanent brain damage. We don’t want people to think ‘I’m safe now because I have Narcan.’”
The Isanti County Substance Abuse and Recovery Coalition, established in November 2016, has the goal to work collaboratively on preventing, reducing and addressing substance abuse in the community.
“We recognize that our community is not immune from these problems, and we are motivated to face them together,” said Deb Natzel, social worker with Isanti County Family Services. “We are also committed to making it easier for those in the midst of their addiction to get information about where to find help and well as support them in their recovery. By mobilizing the entire community – parents, teachers, youth, police, health care, providers, faith communities, business and civic leaders and others – our community can work effectively to develop a comprehensive solution to our community’s unique substance abuse problem.”
Natzel and Caulk appreciate the collaborative efforts between the coalition and the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office.
“The coalition members are very pleased that the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office will soon be carrying Narcan (naloxone),” Natzel said. “Isanti County has not suffered the loss of life to the same extent as some of the other counties in our state, but we are hoping to help prevent any more deaths due to heroin and other opioid medications – losing one more is too many. The coalition has also recently provided some urine drug testing cups as well as resource bags to the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office to give to parents that are concerned their children are using alcohol and other drugs.”
Seiberlich said officers may be able to save more lives because they will be carrying the opioid overdose kits.
“If we are able to save a life, we definitely should do so,” Seiberlich said. “Our ambulance first responders do an excellent job getting to the scene, but in some cases if law enforcement arrives first and Narcan is needed, we can start administering it. Narcan is something that is very easy to use and if someone does receive it who shouldn’t, there is no harm to the patient. Our law enforcement officers in the sheriff’s department were all on board with this.”
Seiberlich said medical personnel will still respond to every scene.
“The Narcan doesn’t necessarily save lives, but it brings the patient out of an opioid overdose so their life can be saved by medical personnel,” Seiberlich said.
The coalition, the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office and the Cambridge Police Department will be partnering together to host the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29 at the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office, 2440 S. Main St., Cambridge. The event aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications.
Caulk understands that no family wants to see a loved one battle a drug addiction.
“Nobody wants to see a family member on drugs,” Caulk said. “But if someone does survive an opioid overdose due to Narcan, they will have the second, third or even fourth chance they need to ask for help.”
For more information on the Isanti County Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery Coalition, email [email protected], call 763-689-8141 or visit https://icsaparc.wixsite.com/coalition. The coalition also has a Facebook page.