After months of delays, the Sheriff’s Office announced last week all patrol deputies are now equipped with naloxone, better known by its brand name Narcan. Like a slap in the face, the drug immediately reverses the effect of a heroin overdose.
Tensions were initially high between sheriff’s officials and mental health professionals about the required level of training deputies needed to administer the life-saving drug. According to the Sheriff’s Office, state laws mandate law enforcement personnel complete one-hour training sessions approved by the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA).
As the country endures a heroin epidemic, Santa Barbara is not immune, public health experts say. Last year, the number of drug and alcohol overdose deaths in the county — 68 — was a 28 percent increase from 2007. The majority involved opioids.
The Sheriff’s Office’s new supply of Narcan supplements Behavioral Wellness’s existing supply. Last year, the county department purchased 300 naloxone kits, distributing them to homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and other places. So far, 50 kits have been administered.
The drug also functions as a way for cops to strengthen relationships with the communities they serve, drug treatment advocates say. UCSB’s police officers are currently undergoing their own training.