In November, 2014, OSI-Baltimore granted $25,000 to Behavioral Health System Baltimore to be used in 2015 for a collaboration with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore City Health Department to launch a pilot program to train Baltimore police officers to administer naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses opioid overdoses, and equip them with naloxone kits.
Now that the grant period is over, we have some results: In 2015, 1,630 BPD officers were trained to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose. Of those, 255 were certified to administer naloxone, and 252 intranasal naloxone kits were distributed to officers. Perhaps most notably, during the first four months after the officers were equipped with the naloxone kits (August 25 to December 31), they administered naloxone in 15 incidents. Thanks to this program, more than a dozen lives were likely saved in just four months, and the training and equipment is in place to save hundreds more.
Last week, local online magazine What Weekly ran a great story about naloxone, asking why the drug, which was first developed in 1961, is becoming more well-known now. The piece suggests that one reason is race, and quotes an October New York Times story headlined “In Heroin Cases, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs”:
“When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.”
The What Weekly piece also points out that statistics released in recent years showed that existing naloxone programs around the country were enormously successful and potentially saved more than 10,000 lives since 1996, a finding that also likely contributed to renewed interest in the drug.
Whatever the reason for the expansion of naloxone programs, OSI-Baltimore is proud to partner with Baltimore police to bring this life-saving drug to communities that are in desperate need. BPD is planning to distribute 200 to 250 more naloxone kits to officers in 2016.