First responders will receive renewed supplies of an opiate antidote used to save 33 lives in Lake County since late last year.
County health, law enforcement and other officials gathered Tuesday to recognize a second donation of 3,000 hand-held automatic injector kits of naloxone to be used by police officers, who often are first on the scene of an overdose.
The donation by Virginia-based pharmaceutical company kaleo Inc., is worth an estimated $1.5 million and marks a milestone of the multifaceted Lake County Opioid Initiative that began more than two years ago.
The program also emphasizes treatment and education, combined with aggressive prosecution of drug dealers.
Officers were equipped with the automatic injectors, called EVZIO, late last year, with the first overdose save coming on Christmas.
Officers from 32 police departments and Lake County Sheriff's Office personnel -- about 90 percent of law enforcement officers in the county -- have been trained as a result of the initiative, according to Tony Beltran, executive director of the Lake County Health Department.
Officials say heroin use is widespread and the drug can be found in nearly every community. Heroin deaths have increased in many states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of widespread exposure to prescription opioids, as well as an increased heroin supply.
"Heroin often costs less than it does to buy prescription drugs," Beltran said.
Lake County reported 59 opioid-related deaths last year.
The local naloxone program began last November with the donation by kaleo of 3,000 hand-held injectors that contain two doses each. The device is used by officers to keep suspected overdose victims breathing until emergency aid arrives.
At the time, the Lake County program was among just a few in the U.S., according to State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, but many entities have followed.
"Here in Lake County, we just don't talk about opioids ... we've done something about it," said Nerheim, a co-founder of the initiative.
Mark Herzog, vice president for corporate affairs at kaleo, said since last October, 135 lives have been saved across the country by police using naloxone. He said the name of the company is ancient Greek meaning "to have a calling or purpose."
The charitable donations of the drug, which was developed to be a prescription medication for those using opioid pain killers, is a key part of the corporate philosophy, he added.
"It's one of the largest donations, but it's also one of the most meaningful," he said of the gift to Lake County.
Without the donations, individual police departments would have to buy naloxone, said Susan McKnight, substance abuse program coordinator for the health department.
"I keep getting calls from all the police departments, 'When are we getting refills?' " she said.