In late May, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced that the New York Police Department would receive $1.2 million dollars to equip every patrol officer with Naloxone, a drug that can immediately reverse heroin or opiate overdoses.
But it’s not clear when the training will be finished and all NYPD officers will be carrying the drug, even though dozens of other police departments around the state that received funding around the same time as the NYPD have already finished training and are carrying Naloxone.
In response to high numbers of heroin and opiate overdose deaths in the state, the Attorney General created the Community Overdose Prevention (COP) program in early April. The program uses $5 million dollars seized from drug busts to supply police departments with Naloxone kits.
Since early April, 175 New York police departments have received funding to buy 28,343 kits, which cost $60 and contain two syringes and two nasal atomizers. According to Schneiderman’s office, 34 additional police departments have pending applications to receive funding from the program.
“It was a really rapid roll out. Exponentially, practically,” says Dr. Sharon Stancliff, medical director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. “It was bureaucracy moving about as fast as it can go.”
The Harm Reduction Coalition has trained approximately 1,300 officers from over 210 police departments on how to administer Naloxone since April. Many of those officers, Standcliff says, would go onto train other officers in their department.
Over the summer, the State University of New York (SUNY) received $27,000 from the Attorney General’s office to equip officers at its 12 state campuses with Naloxone. Paul Berger, the university system’s deputy commissioner of university police, said officers were trained by July.
The state funding allows the NYPD to purchase 19,500 kits. The Health Department is responsible for training NYPD officers to carry and administer Naloxone, and a spokesperson said officers in the Bronx were recently trained to administer Naloxone (also known by its brand name, Narcan). Staten Island officers have been carrying and using Naloxone since a pilot program began at the beginning of this year. Since January, officers have reversed 17 overdoses, according to the city’s Health Department.
The spokesperson did not say how many Bronx officers had been trained and wouldn’t share additional details regarding when officers in other boroughs would be trained. The NYPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment from City Limits.
According to a Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association newsletter published in June, NYPD officers would undergo a training session that is 45 minutes in length on how to administer Naloxone.
The training the Harm Reduction Coalition provides, which is of similar length, is fairly simple. Officers are taught how to recognize an opiate overdose and how to appropriately administer Naloxone, and learn about the drug, its safety and various laws related to Naloxone and drug abuse, such as the “good Samaritan” law that makes it illegal to arrest someone on a drug charge if they call for medical help.
Law enforcement officials and treatment experts say having police officers carry Naloxone could be a sea change in combating the number of opiate overdoses.
Joyce Rivera—now the executive director of the Bronx’s St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a drug outreach and treatment organization—grew up in the South Bronx during the 1960s, and remembers watching addicts walk up the stairs of her apartment building to shoot up.
Overdoses were common, she says, and police often knocked at her parent’s door and asked to use one of their chairs so the person could be carried down the stairs.
“Had those police officers been able to administer Naloxone, those young men could have walked down those stairs,” she says.