Crawford County Sheriff’s deputies trained to use drug as first line of measure for opioid overdoses
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputies recently added another tool to their arsenal in the battle against the opioid epidemic impacting the community.
On Dec. 18, sheriff’s office employees were trained to use Narcan. Narcan is the brand name for a drug called naloxone, which blocks the effects of an opioid.
“Opioids like heroin bind to opioid receptors to relax you and essentially slow you down. In high doses, opioids can slow down breathing and heart rate to the point of oxygen deprivation,” according to pathwaytohope.net. “Narcan can be administered intravenously, injected into the muscle, or in the form of a nasal spray. The speed at which it begins to take effect depends on the method of administration, but it works within minutes. Naloxone can reverse and prevent an overdose for a half hour to an hour after it’s administered.”
The sheriff’s office received two different types of Narcan. One is a nasal spray, which comes with two doses of the lifesaving drug. The other comes with a syringe and three doses.
“Our guys have to draw it out, and you have to inject it into the muscle,” said Crawford County Undersheriff Randy Herman.
On Jan. 2, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office had its first save using the drug. A young lady, who has a daughter, overdosed. A person at the scene administered Narcan through with the syringe method of the drug. Deputy Michael Dekun and Deputy Alan Taylor were able to revive the woman with the nasal Narcan spray.
Staff at the Crawford County Jail already had Narcan on hand for when a person who is brought in and is undergoing an overdose. Grayling Public Safety officers are also equipped with the drug.
“It’s a tool of the trade now,” Herman said. “You have to have it. It you don’t, there is a tragedy.”
Administering the drug causes no more harm than the opioids that the person already has in their system.
“If you give them a dose, and they don’t do anything, you can give them another dose,” Herman said. “From what they told us, giving it to them does not hurt them. If something else is wrong, other than an opioid overdose, it won’t hurt them.”
Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs implemented the program with the deputies shortly after he took the oath of office to serve as the county’s top cop. It goes along with his motto for the sheriff’s office: “Be Part of the Solution.”
In addition, Kraycs said he does not want to deliver the bad news to parents that their loved one has died, when an overdose could have been prevented.
“As this epidemic continues to increase, we in law enforcement and in emergency services are going to have to adjust and understand that there are items available to help us to help people,” Kraycs said. “I don’t want to be the person that has to explain to a family why we don’t have it and we could have saved their family member. Now that we do have it, we can save their family member.”
After going through the training, Lynda Rutkowski, a substance abuse prevention specialist for Up North Prevention and the Crawford County Partnership for Substance Abuse and Prevention, provided cards to the sheriff’s office to give to people saved with Narcan.
“Our policy is when our guys go there and they administer this, we leave the card behind for treatment,” Herman said. “They may not ask us, but if the card is there, at least they have the ability and they know who they can contact for treatment.”
Instead of having the courts force someone into drug rehabilitation, the information is aimed to encourage people to try new forms of drug prevention and treatment.
“Maybe, you never know, that may be the time those people get help and get clean,” Kraycs said.
The Crawford County Partnership for Substance Abuse and Prevention receives its funding from the Northern Michigan Regional Entity, an organization which provides funding and resources for substance abuse prevention and education in 21 northern Michigan counties.
Since Narcan has been added as a lifesaving tool for law enforcement and first responders, 93 saves have occurred in the 21 counties.
“It’s everywhere. It’s unfortunate,” Herman said. “It’s almost a fact of life that it is there, and if we don’t have this stuff, people die.”
“The leading cause of drug overdoses in America is no longer cocaine, meth, or even heroin or common opioid painkillers like Percocet and OxyContin. It’s synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogs,” according to reachmd.com.
“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used medically to relieve pain. It was first made in the 1960s, and since then it’s been adopted as a spray, patch, lollipop, and other mediums for pain relief,” according to reachmd.com. “Fentanyl has made America’s opioid epidemic, already the deadliest drug overdose crisis in U.S. history, even deadlier. In 2015, more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses. In 2016, the total rose to more than 64,000. A spike in fentanyl overdose deaths was the key contributor. Overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl jumped from nearly 10,000 in 2015 to nearly 20,000 in 2016, surpassing common opioid painkillers and heroin for the first time.”
The drug is being shipped “from China to the U.S., typically through Latin America. Along the way, it’s cut into heroin by drug traffickers and dealers, who can then make more money out of their newly cut heroin since it will have more kick for a lower dose,” according to reachmd.com.
Carfentanil is also causing overdose deaths.
“Carfentanil is typically used as a sedative for large animals like elephants. Its use is widely considered too dangerous for humans,” according to reachmd.com.
In late January, a Grayling man overdosed and died from what is suspected to a straight dose of fentanyl instead of what he thought was heroin.
“They’re not buying what they think they are buying,” Kraycs said.
On the same day, another Grayling man also overdosed. He is being cared for in the intensive care unit at the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.
“He is a young guy and father of two kids,” Kraycs said.
The Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) unit, a muti-jurisdictional drug enforcement team which covers Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Roscommon counties, is investigating how drug dealers peddling fentanyl are infiltrating into the region.
“That’s what they’re working on,” Herman said. “It’s a battle. It’s just one of those things that they have to figure out.”