Deerfield police have become the first department in Lake County to successfully use an anti-opiate drug to save the life of a heroin overdose victim.
That the doses of naloxone were used on Christmas made the lifesaving scenario even more poignant, officials said.
"The hospital said (the person) would have died if the police had not first administered it," said Susan McKnight, program coordinator for substance abuse with the Lake County Health Department.
McKnight helped secure a donation of naloxone, the generic form of the anti-opiate Narcan, worth about $1.4 million from Virginia-based kaleo Inc. McKnight said when she learned of the save, she ran to share the news with colleagues.
"I had staff from all around the building high-fiving each other and clapping. It was a great feeling," she said.
At 4:20 p.m. on Christmas, police received a call of a reported heroin overdose at a single-family home, according to Deerfield Deputy Police Chief Tom Keane. Two officers, both with less than two years on the force, arrived in separate cars to find an unconscious adult who had been visiting an acquaintance, he said.
One of the officers administered a dose of the naloxone via an automatic injector called EVZIO. After there was no apparent effect, a second dose was given, "which is part of the training," according to Keane. Officers also performed CPR using an automated external defibrillator until paramedics arrived.
Antidote kits are available in each marked police vehicle on patrol and various locations in the department.
"It's a great initiative," said Keane.
McKnight has trained personnel from 26 of 34 Lake County law enforcement departments in the anti-opiate's use. Seventeen departments have picked up supplies since the program was launched this past November by State's Attorney Mike Nerheim and top brass of several municipal police departments.
The use of naloxone is part of the Lake County Opioid Initiative, which raised the profile of opiate abuse beginning in May 2013. One of the goals was to train first responders to use the synthetic serum.
Aggressive prosecution of drug dealers and an emphasis on treatment and education are also part of the initiative, formed in response to an increase in overdoses related to opioids, which includes heroin and prescription pain medications.
According to McKnight, there were 48 opioid deaths reported in both 2012 and 2013. Of those, 35 involved heroin in 2012 compared to 19 involving heroin last year. The swing is due to increasing use of opioids other than heroin, such as pain medications.
"(Users) also don't realize if they combine (pain medication) with something else like alcohol, it's a recipe for death," she said.