By John Burton
FREEHOLD – Police departments’ access to a heroin overdose antidote has so far accounted for saving the lives of two-dozen Monmouth County residents.
Not every deployment of the treatment, however, was as successful and the dangers of heroin use cannot be overstated, said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
In the two months since law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel began using Narcan (naloxone) in the treatment for overdoses, 24 have resulted in overdose reversals, one was unsuccessful, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Wall Township police’s attempt last Wednesday to revive a 50-year-old who was found unresponsive without a pulse and not breathing was not successful. The man was taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune, where he died later that day, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“This man’s death serves as a reminder that naloxone is not a cure-all for heroin addiction,” Gramiccioni said in a statement, “and is by no means a 100 percent failsafe alternative to reversing the effects of a heroin overdose.”
The treatment proved successful in Colts Neck and Middletown last week as police in those departments administered the antidote to a 16-year-old Colts Neck girl and a 15-year-old Middletown girl, according to the prosecutor’s office.
In April, Gov. Chris Christie designated Monmouth and Ocean counties for pilot programs for the use of the antidote. By the end of April a designated training officer from every department in the county, including from Broodale Community College and Monmouth University, was trained during a to train-the-trainer program at the county police academy.
The naloxone kits are paid for by County Law Enforcement Trust Account, using money seized during arrests as proceeds of illegal activities
In Monmouth County, between 2011-2013 the rate of people who died from heroin and prescription opiate abuse was three times the number of homicides and highway fatalities combined. Since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths attributed to prescription opiates has increased more than 400 percent in the United States; from 2006-2010 in New Jersey there has been a 24 percent increase in opiate and heroin related overdose deaths in just the 18-26-year-old age group, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Gramiccioni said naloxone is an added tool for law enforcement but prevention and education are the key ingredients in preventing addiction and overdose deaths. A year ago, the prosecutor’s office launched an awareness program, working with schools and experts in the field of addiction to combat the rising epidemic of heroin use in the county.