Our view: Bennington Police should carry Narcan

Since 2013, naloxone has been used to reverse at least 1,200 opioid overdoses in Vermont.

VTDigger reports that the medication, known by its brand-name, Narcan, is given out by the Department of Health to emergency responders, as well as other groups that then give it to individuals free of charge.

Naloxone isn't hard to administer. Kits can be obtained locally at the Turning Point Center, located at 465 Main St.

That 1,200 figure is probably low. According to the VTDigger report, many overdoses go unreported and the numbers don't include law enforcement agencies who carry the medication. With overdoses on the rise, and with there being no sign of slowing down, it's important that naloxone be made as available as possible.

The Department of Health has made the kits available to police departments. The Bennington Police Department is not one of them, instead relying on Bennington Rescue Squad to administer it, and whatever else is needed, when the time comes.

We think that should change and that BPD officers should carry Narcan.

"Simply carrying Narcan or naloxone isn't enough," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette in an email. "I have been present when Narcan and naloxone have been used. Often times the person wakes up and becomes combative or may vomit. We do not carry suction units to clear the person's airway. We do not carry medication to calm the person in the event it is needed."

It's possible for someone not properly trained and equipped to make a bad medical situation worse. Not all departments are large enough to be able to afford all the training and equipment they'd like their personnel to have.

Doucette goes on to say, "The State of Vermont continues to spend money on this program and I ask myself if it is really helping the opiate problem. We come in contact with opiate users that are carrying their own naloxone in the event they need it or a friend needs it. I have spoken with users who tell the police groups of people get together and someone is assigned to watch over others while they use opiates. We have created a `safe' way for people to continue using a very dangerous and addictive drug."

It's tempting to raise a straw man argument here and say that we can cut down on traffic incidents by banning seatbelts and airbags. We could also get people to take fire safety more seriously by removing fire hydrants and smoke detectors. These aren't fair arguments, of course, since no one is addicted to crashing their car or having their house catch fire. Heroin is a different story.

Instead, we'll posit that the purpose of heroin being illegal in the first place is that it's highly addictive and deadly to users. The fact that addicts continue to risk death by using it is a fairly good indicator that addiction, not reason, is in control of these people's minds. If Narcan is too expensive — $1.15 million spent over three years, pretty cheap as far as government programs go — then one might say the same for the rest of our drug law enforcement efforts. If addiction is a health issue, let's treat it like one at all levels.


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