The University of Connecticut Police Department officers now carry Narcan, a nasal spray that can help treat an opioid overdose.
Narcan is an FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone that temporarily treats the effects of an opioid overdose by reversing or blocking the effects of an opioid.
UCPD Chief Hans Rhynhart said the reason behind training UCPD officers at the Storrs and regional campuses to carry and deploy Narcan was to prepare them to deal with an emergency overdose situation.
“The reason for the police department to deploy it [Narcan] to our officers is [that] through some of our patrol activities, we may come across somebody who is suffering from the effects of a narcotic,” Rhynhart said.
Rhynhart said that the effectiveness of Narcan is dependent upon many factors.
“It’s very specific to that particular patient,” Rhynhart said, “However, Narcan does have a very short act time, so it acts very quickly to address the effects of an overdose, but it sometimes doesn’t last for long periods of time so it is still necessary for that person to be transported to an emergency department,” Rhynhart said.
Rhynhart said that UCPD has not had to use Narcan since the program began in late January and the decision to begin carrying it was based on the ongoing national opioid problem.
“Our desire and drive to start carrying it is really revolves around the national conversation about the opioid epidemic that a lot of communities are struggling with,” Rhynhart said.
“Problems that exist four miles from UConn property exist at UConn and we want to be prepared to address those if need be.”
Rhynhart said that opioid abuse is a national problem that affects many groups of people.
“This problem affects everybody, it affects all ages, races, socio-economic regions,” Rhynhart said, “It is turning into a national epidemic.”
UConn Deputy Fire Chief Gregory Priest said that carrying Narcan is a good way for officers to be prepared.
“It’s a proactive stance to be prepared for whatever they may encounter,” Priest said.
Rhynhart said that the UConn Fire Department has been carrying Narcan for several years but that the UCPD still had to go through a lengthy training process.
“It was a complicated and somewhat labor-intensive effort for the police department to start carrying it,” Rhynhart said.
UCPD received medical consultations from Windham Hospital Medical Control and the officers received state-wide training provided by the UConn Fire Department.
“We just didn’t want to start a program and have it fail immediately, so we made sure we covered all the steps and made sure were deploying the right product and the right delivery method of that product,” Rhynhart said.
Rhynhart said that one of logistical concerns for having officers carry Narcan on their person was keeping the medication at the proper temperature.
“There are temperature concerns, we had to make sure we put in place operational procedures so officers are keeping it and storing it in a proper location so it’s not degrading the effects of medication,” Rhynhart said.
Priest said that there was also a concern regarding the original packaging of Narcan.
“The original packaging of Narcan came in a glass vile, which is something that, in police work, is subject to breakage,” Priest said, “So we were able to find a product that is able to be carried in the pocket of each police officer, it’s far better [for] deployment and carrying.”
Rhynhart said that civilians can purchase Narcan at their local pharmacy.
“There are outreach programs for people who have a family member who they know may have an opioid problem, and I think those are the people that Narcan is being targeted to,” Priest said.
Rhynhart said that it is imperative that anyone who administers Narcan call 911.
“It may provide immediate relief to whatever effects they’re feeling but it may also be a different substance and it may not have any effect at all, [you need to] get the trained medical responders there,” Rhynhart said.
Rhynhart said that the Police Department’s response to the opioid problem is just one part of dealing with an ongoing national crisis.
“We are just a small part of wanting to protect and help people, it can happen to anybody and it affects all different types of people,” Rhynhart said.