Like other communities around the country, the City of Redmond has not been immune to the increase in opioid use.
Cmdr. Charlie Gorman with the Redmond Police Department (RPD) said when looking at police reports that have had heroin in the narrative, there has been a steady increase from 2007-16. In 2007, he said there were 49 cases and in 2016, there were 204.
According to an RPD press release, Redmond police responds to roughly 15-20 overdose calls a year and a few of those are usually heroin related. Gorman added that those numbers have remained pretty steady since 2007.
Gorman said for a few years, there had been an increase in Oxycontin use as it was easy to get — by methods such as robbing pharmacies or stealing family members’ or friends’ prescription pills. People would then crush the pills and mix them with water and inject the substance to get high. However, Gorman said, drug manufacturers have made Oxycontin pills difficult to crush and so heroin use has been on the rise.
“Heroin is very easy to get,” he said.
In an effort to decrease deaths from opiate overdoses, RPD has now joined a number of departments across the country trained to administer Nasal Naloxone — which is known by its brand name, Narcan.
“Over the last few years, our officers, like many cities around us, have seen an increase in the number of people under the influence of opiates, especially heroin,” said Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson in the press release. “We don’t expect to use Narcan frequently, but the kits are another tool officers can use. It’s not a long-term solution for heroin issues, but is low-risk to use and saves lives.”
The drug is provided to the police department at no cost through a King County grant.
Gorman said the idea to train officers to administer Narcan came after the department learned about a pilot project at the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) that trained its patrol deputies to administer the drug. He contacted KCSO and sat in on a training session and had the opportunity to ask them questions about their Narcan program.
According to the press release, patrol and commissioned officers below the rank of commander have recently been trained by Redmond Fire Department (RFD) paramedics and have been issued Narcan kits.
Gorman said they incorporated the Narcan training with RPD’s first aid and CPR training as CPR is one of the steps in treating someone who shows signs of an opioid overdose.
He said heroin affects the central nervous system and tells the brain, and as a result the body, that a person does not have to breathe and so they stop breathing. Narcan is administered through the nasal cavity by a syringe and atomizer attachment that converts the liquid into a mist. Once the drug reaches the brain, Gorman said it temporarily reverses the heroin effects and the brain starts working again so they can continue administering first aid to the individual.
RPD trained officers in small groups over the course of two months and will train new officers as well. In addition, Gorman said, the Narcan training will be included in the first aid and CPR refresher training officers must go through every two years.
According to the release, under the new policy, officers who have completed training can administer Narcan to someone who has overdosed on opioids and is in respiratory distress.
In the release, Mike Hilley with RFD said medics have already been administering Narcan.
“Redmond Fire Medic Unit 19 delivered 19 doses of Narcan in 2016,” he said in the release. “Medic 19 does respond outside the Redmond area on occasion, so a few of these uses could have been delivered in other areas of the county.”
Gorman said Narcan was previously only administered by RFD’s advanced life support units but in addition to police officers, RFD basic life support units have been trained to administer the drug.
“It’s such an easy drug to use,” he said.