- The NYPD will equip nearly 20,000 officers with naloxone, a heroin antidote
- Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will provide at least $1,170,000
- "This program will literally save lives," said Schneiderman
- Naloxone prevents heroin from slowing a person's breathing
The New York Police Department, the largest police force in the United States, announced Tuesday that it has received funding to equip close to 20,000 officers with naloxone, a heroin antidote that can instantly reverse the effects of an overdose.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman declared that his office would provide the funding of more than $1.1 million to equip and train the NYPD officers as part of the Community Overdose Prevention Program.
"By providing NYPD police officers with naloxone, we are making this stunningly effective overdose antidote available in every corner of the five boroughs. This program will literally save lives," Schneiderman said at a press conference.
Each naloxone kit consists of a zip bag or pouch containing two pre-filled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves and a booklet on the use of the drug, according to a statement from Schneiderman's office.
The emergency treatment works like the well-known EpiPen -- an epinephrine auto-injector for serious allergic reactions -- as it is injected into the muscle and does not require training, making it more user-friendly. Once injected, the naloxone stops heroin and other opioids from slowing a person's breathing down to the point that it stops.
The FDA approved the prescription treatment after just 15 weeks under priority status.
Currently, most law enforcement agencies are using the nasal spray version of the antidote, which is slightly different than the auto-injector.
"A recent pilot project in Staten Island has already proven effective with several overdose victims," said NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, who did not have an exact time frame of when the officers would officially be equipped.
The training for each officer takes roughly 45 minutes, Bratton said.
Joining Schneiderman and Bratton at the announcement was Carol Christiansen, co-founder of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard.
Christiansen's son, a former NYPD detective, died of a heroin overdose in 2012. Erik, 28, injured his back at the gym and became addicted to oxycodone for the pain, which led to an eventual addiction to heroin.
"It's an epidemic I think everybody should be aware of," Christiansen said, who believes the real problem is the poor monitoring of prescription medication.
Schneiderman also led the effort to pass legislation to create I-STOP, a monitoring program that prevents individuals from going from doctor to doctor to accumulate multiple prescriptions.
"If the I-STOP law was in effect over two years ago possibly my son, Erik, would be alive today," Christiansen said.
The police department of Quincy, Massachusetts, was the first in the nation to require its officers to carry naloxone and has successfully reversed 211 overdoses with a success rate of over 95%. In New York's Suffolk County, 563 lives were saved last year alone, the statement said.
"Equipping the NYPD with naloxone is a tremendously important step in the fight against New York's growing opioid addiction epidemic," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer of Phoenix House in Manhattan.