Nov. 10, 2018 — Death is not always permanent. Just ask Florence Police Officer Brandon Bailey. Bailey was recognized at Monday’s Florence City Council meeting for his response at the scene of a callout, where his training with the Florence Police Department and Western Lane Ambulance District helped save a man’s live.
Florence Police Chief Tom Turner presented a recognition plaque to Bailey and told the council about Bailey’s decision to administer the drug naloxone, in the form of a nasal spray known by the consumer name Narcan, to an individual that was unconscious and unresponsive.
“Officer Bailey is being awarded this Life Saving Medal for quick thinking that led to the saving of a life under difficult circumstances. I want to congratulate officer Bailey on his quick thinking and those life-saving actions,” Turner said.
The man that Bailey saved had overdosed on what Bailey determined, from the evidence at the scene, was heroin. He recognized the signs of an overdose and quickly took action.
“He was pretty much lifeless on the ground. He wasn’t breathing, his pulse was so low that the fire department wasn’t able to pick it up,” Bailey said. “I gave him a full dose of Narcan and he started to breathe a little. When Officer Case arrived, I took his Narcan and administered another full dos. Within 30 to 45 seconds the individual was completely coherent, like nothing ever happened.”
Narcan has been shown to quickly counter the effects of an opioid overdose, whether that opioid is obtained with a prescription or from an illicit source.
The cost for the drug is about $20 per dose. Members of the Florence Police Department have just started to carry Narcan after training with Western Lane Ambulance District. Additional training on Narcan has continued, with a training session between the departments held this week.
While funding sources for further purchases of Narcan for the police department are yet to be determined, the October incident has proven the decision to equip officers with doses was a good one.
Bailey believes that having the drug with him saved the overdosed individual’s life.
“We’ve only been carrying Narcan for a month or so, as it is relatively new to the police department, and it’s the first time I’ve ever used it,” he said. “But it’s another tool that we can use that is in our tool bag, and we can help more people, and that is the important thing — helping to save people.”
The last few years have seen a marked increase in opioid related deaths across the country and in Lane County, according to the police chief.
“Opioid overdoses have become an emerging issue across the country. The opioid fentanyl is a strong synthetic pain killer and it is the main cause. This a prescription drug that has become one of the most abused substances ever,” Turner said. “Lane County experienced 40 opioid deaths last year and, in just the last couple of months, there have been 38 opioid overdoses that were saved by the administration of Narcan.”
Narcan is also now without a prescription in 46 states, including Oregon.
According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, 115 people die each day from an opioid overdose.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.
In addition to the serious risks of addiction, abuse and overdose, the use of prescription opioids can have a number of side effects, even when taken as directed. These include needing higher dosage for the same pain relief; physical dependence and signs of withdrawal when the medication is stopped; increased sensitivity to pain; constipation, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, itching and sweating; sleepiness, dizziness and confusion; depression and even lower levels of testosterone.
There are programs available for people with a dependence on opioids. For more information, contact Oregon Health Authority Addictions and Mental Health Services at 1-800-923-4357 or www.oregon.gov/OHA/HSD/AMH/Pages/Get-Help.aspx.