Last Tuesday evening, Asha Malocsay overdosed just days after moving into her Isla Vista apartment. An 18-year-old Santa Barbara City College student from Livermore, California, Malocsay was already dead when first responders arrived. Though the autopsy is still pending, law enforcement authorities suspect heroin and cocaine, among other drugs, to be the culprit. The death was the first fatal drug overdose in Isla Vista this year, and one of just a handful in the last five years.
“Nationally, heroin is making a comeback, and I don’t think we’re that much of an island,” said Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, who is assistant pastor of St. Athanasius Church and sat with distraught roommates last Tuesday night. “I think we have a tendency to miss a lot of things out here.”
Because Malocsay died before responders arrived, naloxone, the lifesaving drug that immediately reverses an overdose, would not have saved her. But its availability has slowly increased in the past two years since state law required it. Now, people — users and potential bystanders — can buy it at pharmacies. UCSB has it. And the county’s Behavioral Wellness department purchased 300 naloxone kits — dispensed in nasal spray form — and distributed them to shelters, narcotic treatment programs, and needle-exchange programs, among other places. But not one kit has so far been administered, according to John Doyel, the county’s alcohol and drug expert.
That may be because Emergency Medical Services protocol states naloxone can be given if respirations are less than 12 per minute, said Lt. Craig Bonner. “There is a fairly narrow parameter in which they can be used,” he said. However, he added, “It will undoubtedly happen.”
Though the Isla Vista Foot Patrol is equipped with naloxone kits, Sheriff’s deputies are not yet authorized to administer the drug should they arrive to a patient before paramedics do. Next month, the Public Health Department is expected to launch its policy and begin training Sheriff’s deputies. According to Bonner, all deputies should go through the training early next year. Paramedics, meanwhile, have administered naloxone 172 times so far this year. Last year, they administered 195 doses.