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Tension Over Narcan Rises

Deputies Unable to Carry Overdose Antidote


A bureaucratic meeting on Isla Vista reportedly grew heated last week when Behavioral Wellness Director Alice Gleghorn questioned Sheriff Bill Brown’s insistence that his deputies could not carry naloxone until they received the mandated training. Naloxone, the potentially life-saving drug that immediately counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose, has been administered 217 times by paramedics this year in Santa Barbara County. The drug has been around for decades, but in line with state laws adopted to expand access to it, Gleghorn’s department purchased 300 naloxone kits last year to give to laypeople, including those employed in shelters and narcotic treatment programs, and family members of addicts.

About 20 kits went to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, but deputies have yet to carry the drug, which is dispensed through a nasal spray. Law enforcement is handcuffed by a state law prohibiting officers from performing pre-hospital care without the proper training, according to Brown. That training is scheduled to begin for his entire force in January.

“We are held to a much higher standard of care,” added Jennie Simon, a nurse with county Emergency Medical Services. Simon said the Sheriff’s department contacted her agency to draft a policy for the training, which should take about an hour. “We would be negligent if we didn’t include a training and education component.”

Gleghorn likened the drug to nasal cold medicine. “It is not Pulp Fiction where they plunge a needle into the chest,” she said. While she had not fully researched the law Brown was referring to, she called extensive training “unfathomable.” It should take five to 10 minutes, she said. She noted that law enforcement’s relations with the community have benefited in places where officers carry naloxone.

As for Isla Vista, opioid overdoses occur less frequently than elsewhere, according to paramedic reports. In the past two years, medics have administered naloxone in the City of Santa Barbara 166 times compared to just five times in I.V.

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