Arlington Heights officers trained to stop heroin overdoses
Arlington Heights police officer Valerie Andrews has been the first responder at the scene of a heroin overdose more than once, and each time there was not much she could do.
"I comfort the families, and we wait for EMS to arrive," she said. "I don't have anything I can offer them."
But on Thursday, Andrews was among the first group of Arlington Heights police officers to be trained to use automatic injectors with naloxone, an opiate aggressor that can stop an overdose and save a life.
After administering the drug, Andrews will now be able to call Live 4 Lali -- a heroin awareness nonprofit that just opened a walk-in clinic in Arlington Heights and was training the police department on Thursday -- to respond with more services once the overdose crisis is averted.
The entire Arlington Heights force will soon be trained, and each squad car's defibrillator kit will be stocked with the drug. Normally each kit would cost $300, but every trained officer will have two units of the drug donated to the department by Live 4 Lali.
Co-founder Chelsea Laliberte, of Palatine, lost her brother Alex to an overdose in 2008 and has been raising awareness about heroin abuse, overdose and treatment ever since.
Laliberte educated the officers on addiction, what an overdose looks like and how to use the autoinjector. Nationwide, 114 people die of opiate overdoses a day, she said.
"We are losing an entire generation of kids to opiate overdose," Laliberte said.
Mike Ledvora, who grew up in Buffalo Grove and now lives in Fox River Grove, told the officers about his own experiences as an addict and his time in recovery for the past four years.
He joked that he was nervous to talk to a group of police officers because he had so many experiences in handcuffs during his addiction.
"But I really do appreciate everything you do," he told them.
"If it wasn't for the last time I got arrested I would have never gotten help."
Thursday's training was also being filmed by the "Today" show and will air on the NBC morning program as part of a segment about Laliberte and Live 4 Lali sometime in May.
Arlington Heights is one of the first departments in Cook County to partner with Live 4 Lali, but several departments in Lake and DuPage counties have already been trained on naloxone and have saved lives because of it.
"We're equipping our first responders with another lifesaving method," said Capt. Nick Pecora.
"This is a great day for the police department."
The partnership with Live 4 Lali will go beyond the training and naloxone use though.
"When you have an overdose, the next question is, 'What do you do now?'" Laliberte said. "That's when we want to try to intervene."
Laliberte said representatives from Live 4 Lali will be available to come to the scene of an overdose and talk to families about their options, talk to the person who has just been saved about getting into treatment, or refer to other resources.
Andrews said the partnership will be helpful to her as a patrol office when she has to respond to such difficult and emotional situations.
"This gives us one more tool," Andrews said.
"I think it will be extremely useful."