Law enforcement officers who work in Wake County high schools and middle schools are starting to carry a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose from heroin and other opioids.
School resource officers from the Cary and Fuquay-Varina police departments recently began carrying Narcan, a brand-name version of the anti-opioid drug naloxone. Several other area law enforcement agencies, including the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and Garner and Raleigh police departments, plan to issue Narcan to their school resource officers.
“It’s what we’re doing to combat the opioid overdose epidemic,” said Ken Quinlan, assistant police chief in Cary.
Abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers has claimed a growing number of lives around the country, leading earlier this month to President Donald Trump declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency. More than 12,000 people have died of opioid overdoses in North Carolina since 1999, including about 1,200 last year.
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In Raleigh, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown has said there are about 15 opioid overdoses and four deaths per month in the city.
The rise in opioid overdoses has led local law enforcement agencies to begin providing, or consider issuing, Narcan to all their officers, including those assigned to work in schools. The Wake school system contracts with local police to provide school resource officers to every high school and most middle schools.
Wake school officials say none of the schools stock Narcan. Officers can administer the drug via a nasal spray.
Wake EMS didn’t respond to any opioid overdoses at schools last school year, according to Jeff Hammerstein, an agency spokesman. But Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison said equipping school resource officers with Narcan is a good preventative tool that can keep a student from dying.
“We’re just trying to be proactive, trying to make sure that if something does happen in one of our schools we’re prepared,” Harrison said.
Harrison had previously supplied Narcan to patrol deputies and drug investigators. He’s awaiting shipment of more doses of Narcan that will be given to K-9 officers and to the 22 deputies assigned to schools, mostly middle schools around the county.
“There are drugs in middle schools,” Harrison said. “I don’t know how much, but I don’t care.
“If one overdoses and we happen to have Narcan there and we can save a child’s life, then I feel like we have accomplished something.”
Even if there’s no need to use Narcan at a school, Quinlan said it’s good for Cary’s school resource officers to have the drug available.
“Our schools are dispersed throughout the entire community so in the event there’s anyone in distress in the area, the SRO might be the first person to respond,” he said.