INDIANAPOLIS - Officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are training to become first responders in an effort to stem the growing deaths from heroin overdoses.
On Wednesday, officers had their first official training session to learn to administer an antidote called Narcan that could pull a heroin overdose victim back from the brink of death.
Emergency medical personnel said Narcan is safe and effective. They said when it is in the hands of a trained officer, it can save lives.
Emergency medical responders say that heroin overdoses and heroin deaths have reached epidemic proportions. They call it a public health crisis that needs attention at many levels.
Officials with Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services began training officers Wednesday in the use of Narcan. It's an opiate that officers can safely administer in spray form through the victim's nasal passages.
"It is a killer. People are dying from this and they are dying on a daily basis," Dan O'Donnell with IEMS said.
The use of Narcan by emergency medical personnel continues to skyrocket. Narcan use has increased by 17 percent in the last year. And in 2014, Narcan use remains on track to surpass 2013 totals.
Carey Arnold, 26, has been addicted to heroin for 10 years and calls the use of Narcan the right thing to do.
"We as a society just can't give up on people. There are so many people that have so much to offer that are trapped in an addiction. It's not worth losing people," Arnold said.
Experts say heroin impacts personal health and the city's crime rate. Police said that the department's use of Narcan will go beyond just an ambulance ride to the hospital.
"We will follow up with them. We will offer them resources, chemical and substance abuse counseling is available to them. All kinds of service to help them never be laid out on the floor again," Cmdr. Dave Hofmann said.
The Indiana Legislature passed a law that protects officers who use Narcan from lawsuits and criminal prosecution.
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