On February 1, the Sachem High School auditorium was filled with over 80 members of the community as they were educated and trained in saving an overdose victim by the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD).
In January 2016, the SCPD responded to 140 overdose calls in three of its seven precincts alone. Instead of arresting the victims, the officers of the fourth, fifth and sixth precincts used their medical training as EMTs to help those in their time of need. During the presentation a recent call was mentioned when a quick responding officer revived two children under the age of ten with the narcotic antidote the department has issued for several years.
Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, is administered via nasal spray and is absorbed rapidly through the capillaries in the nasal cavity. Its effects can be noticed within minutes.
SCPD Chief Surgeon and Medical Director Scott Coyne has overseen the Narcan training and usage for the county’s 1,300 sworn officers and smaller agencies in towns.
“I personally thought that in six months [of the pilot program], maybe we would have five, six or eight narcan administrations, Coyne said during the presentation. In five months, we had 40.”
He was present, along with several representatives of the department, for a community training on Narcan titled, “The Ugly Truth.” The department holds seminars, usually every week and sometimes bi-weekly, to combat the drug problem on Long Island by educating the public. These presentations started one year ago and along with educating the community on the signs and symptoms of drug abuse, offer training on Narcan and kits for use at home for free.
At the event at Sachem High School, Dr. Coyne presented grim facts and figures of narcotic drug abuse throughout Suffolk County, specifically the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown.
“In three-and-a-half years as of February 1st, we are approaching 500 administrations of narcan by SCPD officers, even taking into account the ambulances and EMTs,” Coyne said.
The majority of people in attendance were of an older age, and many were parents of teenage children in local school districts, who are most susceptible to the allure of drug abuse.
Meri Vogt of Farmingville was in attendance after her 17-year-old son was placed into a court-mandated drug rehabilitation program for abusing Xanax, an addictive narcotic painkiller.
“I know him sober and he was different. I saw a change in him,” Vogt said when asked about her first suspicions her son was abusing narcotics. SCPD 4th Precinct Community Liaison Officer LaVeglia discussed the signs, symptoms and actions of someone abusing opiates, some of which matched what Vogt witnessed with her son.
“He would ask to borrow $20 for Applebee’s,” Vogt said. “I started to ask for receipts or for him to send me pictures of his drink [for proof]. I was too much his friend and not enough his parent.” She hopes that she can use her experiences and learn from SCPD to prevent anything similar happening to her 10-year-old daughter.
Although the Narcan kit she received won’t combat the effects of a non-opiate drug like Xanax, Suffolk County Police Academy’s Emergency Medical Training Unit Instructor Jason Byron, says there is no need for concern if Narcan is used when the drug used isn’t an opiate, as the Narcan will just pass through the body. What is a problem is if too little is given when needed.
“We give you two [vials] per pack,” Byron said. “If you give a full dose and still need more or make a mistake, that’s why we give you the second one.” Byron further mentioned that SCPD is currently one of the only departments in the nation to offer narcan training to the community.
When a Narcan kit is given out, it is optional to register your kit with the department to track its use and expiration date. Byron explained that the department can send reminders when your kit expires so they can replace it, free of cost. Additional kits can also be requested by visiting an SCPD precinct. The Suffolk County Police Department will continue to train the community in upcoming sessions in February and March and its Community Liaison Officers, like Officer LaVeglia, hope that these kits never have to be used.