INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Public Safety workers in Indianapolis will soon launch a pilot program aimed at saving lives from a deadly heroin epidemic.
In March, some metro police officers will begin carrying doses of medication that temporarily reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
“Generally, EMS is on scene first but there’s a significant percentage of time which we are finding that police are on scene first,” said Dr. Charles Miramonti, director of the Indianapolis Emergency Medical Service. “And so this is a real opportunity to have a profound impact.”
The pilot program is a joint effort between Indianapolis EMS, IMPD and the IU School of Medicine.
Officers will begin carrying the medication – called Narcan – in areas of the city that have a higher volume of heroin dose paramedic runs. The program may expand after it’s evaluated.
“The officer will have it preloaded and if that particular officer comes upon a patient who we presume … has (had) a heroin overdose and if they’re not breathing, all the signs are there, they can go ahead and administer that drug very safely and reverse the effect immediately,” Miramonti said.
Paramedic Guy Haskell said this year, he’s seen a noticeable increase in heroin overdoses.
“Probably every shift now,” he said. “It’s unusual. It wasn’t like that last year.”
EMS data shows medics are called to an overdose, on average, twice a day. Last year, 95 people died of a heroin overdose and public safety officials are concerned the number could go up this year.
“This is not just a phase, this is a deadly drug,” said Troy Riggs, director of the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety.
Riggs said the heroin problem isn’t as dire as it is in some other cities, but said it’s critical that the community address it so it doesn’t get worse.
“We have to make plans now,” he said.
In October, 2013, public safety agencies launched a public service campaign to highlight the problem and point to help for those in need.