Crystal Lake police target heroin deaths with overdose antidote

CRYSTAL LAKE – By the end of May, all Crystal Lake Police officers are expected to be equipped with a drug that potentially can reverse a fatal overdose.

The police department recently was approved by the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, or DASA, to administer naloxone.

Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, which counteracts the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. Crystal Lake officers are currently being trained to administer Narcan nasally.

Police Chief James Black said he sought to implement the program after a rash of heroin deaths in the county.

"We've been fighting the war on drugs for years and we're not winning," he said. "We'll do everything we can to eradicate [illegal drugs]. This gives us another tool … to help save lives."

According to data provided from the McHenry County Coroner, there were 15 heroin-related overdose deaths last year.

Heroin’s escalation on the national level is troubling, addiction experts say. Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the 45 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths between 2006 and 2010 an “urgent and growing public health crisis.”

Narcan is not new, but Crystal Lake is the first local police department to have officers carry it. Other local departments and the Sheriff's Office said they are considering a similar program.

Many first responders and emergency personnel have been carrying or administering the drug for years.

McHenry County Sheriff Sgt. Mike Muraski said that local first responders credited Narcan with saving two lives of patients who were overdosing.

Narcan costs $17 a dose and Crystal Lake police officers will carry two doses. It was roughly $1,500 to start the program, Black said, adding the funds came from the department's asset forfeitures.

"I'm letting the drug dealers pay for it," he said.

Officials from Rosecrance of McHenry County said the treatment provider will offer education and resources about Narcan to its clients, but Director Chris Gleason said providing it to users is counter intuitive to many of the treatment philosophies at Rosecrance.

"At Rosecrance, we support Narcan in police cars and hospitals, but as a treatment provider, we do not support providing Narcan to our heroin addicts," he said.

The drug is non-addictive, and has no effect if administered to those who are not overdosing. However, some people suffered allergic reactions to it.

• The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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