Holly Springs Police Chief Ken Ball said the opiate overdose kits give officers a chance to save lives and offer drug users an opportunity to get help.
“I’ve had the very horrible duty, many nights, of delivering very bad news to parents over the years,” Ball said. “This past summer, the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, I had to tell an employee that she had lost her daughter to this.”
Parents of drug overdose victims, law enforcement officials, police chiefs and Naloxone experts gathered Wednesday at the First Baptist Church Holly Springs to demonstrate and discuss the use of the naloxone, or Narcan — a drug able to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.
Robert Childs, an advocate for naloxone and executive director of a North Carolina Harm Reduction organization, said the drug can bring overdose victims “back from the dead.”
“In the United States, 10,000 people have had overdoses reversed by naloxone,” Childs said.
Lt. Tanya Smith lost her daughter, Taylor Smith, to a heroin overdose in 2013 and spent the last year pushing for a new state law to allow police in Georgia to carry and administer naloxone.
“On April 24, Gov. Deal signed into law groundbreaking legislation that provides a life-saving tool, not only to law enforcement, but to members of the community,” Smith said. “The average citizen can get a prescription for naloxone.”
The law allows Georgia law enforcement to carry and use the drug and allows residents to get a prescription for naloxone to keep at home or on their person.
Smith said the law also provides immunity to people seeking medical help for an overdose, either for themselves or someone else.
“It grants immunity for personal possession for personal use, not for drug dealers,” Smith said. “Now, when police respond, the person doesn’t have to be afraid.”
Every Holly Springs Police vehicle was equipped with opiate overdose drug naloxone Wednesday morning, and officers began training at 7 a.m., said Holly Springs Police Detective Greg Bettis.
“We’re excited that we’ve got an opportunity to serve our neighbors in a different way as law enforcement officers. It’s been a long time coming, but we’re glad it’s finally here,” Bettis said.
Smith said her daughter, like many others, died because the people they were with were afraid to call for help out of fear they’d face legal repercussions.
“The people my daughter was with had meth on them, too afraid to call 911. They let her die,” Smith said. “We don’t want them to be afraid to call 911. They’re kids ... Let’s get them some help.”
Now, Smith said, if you seek medical help for a drug overdose, “Georgia law protects you.”
“The face of drug abuse is changed, and we need to change how we look at it,” Smith said. “The new heroin addict is the exact opposite of our stereotypical user.”
Ball said the United States accounts for 4 percent of the world population, but consumes about 94 percent of the opiates produced.
“This doesn’t get somebody stopped. It’s not going to cure them,” Ball said of naloxone. “What it will do is give us the opportunity to save their life and give them the opportunity to get the right help. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”