Durham Constabulary trauma trained officers are among the first in the country to carry a life-saving drug which will temporarily overcome the effects of a drug overdose.
More than 40 roads policing officers and other frontline officers, together with officers working in custody suites, have been trained in administering Naloxone – a drug used to fight against overdoses caused by opiates such as methadone, heroin, fentanyl and codeine.
The Naloxone kit, identical to that which trained staff within the NHS, North East Ambulance Service and drug services use, has already been used by selected trained officers across County Durham and Darlington to save lives.
Any potential administration of this drug by officers, does not replace the need for professional medical help, instead, it provides an opportunity to save a life if they find themselves at the scene of someone who has overdosed.
The North-East has the highest drug related deaths rate in the country and two years ago a decision was made to train custody officers in the administration of Naloxone.
The Naloxone kits are provided as part of a partnership with the public health team at Durham County Council.
Trained officers are also now able to provide Naloxone to take home to eligible detainees upon their release from custody.
So far, six kits have been handed out and each time the recipient has been offered, and if needed, guided through online training and provided with referral opportunities.
Durham Constabulary and the Office of the Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner are now working with King’s College London, to share information on the Naloxone project.
In addition, police and crime commissioners and police forces from across the country have been invited to attend an online event in the Spring to learn more about Naloxone.
Participants will hear from Durham representatives about the difference it has made and learn more about how it can be introduced to other forces.
Temporary chief inspector Jason Meecham, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We have had Naloxone available in our custody suites around the county for some time now and we took the decision to extend this to some frontline officers.
“Naloxone provides an almost instant reaction, temporarily counteracting the effects of an opiate overdose, and although that person would still need medical attention, it provides an opportunity to potentially save a life.
“The action we can take is even more important given the pressures currently facing our NHS.
“Naloxone is already available to users elsewhere, however being able to offer it to people whilst in police detention, allowing them to take the kit home gives another avenue available to them if they need it and the work we have done so far shows what a life-saving difference it can make.”
Chief Constable Jo Farrell said: “Since Naloxone was introduced to the force, we have seen what a life-saving difference it can make to some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“They still need professional medical attention, but it gives them that chance of survival they might not have had otherwise and ultimately give them an opportunity to get their life back on track.”
Steve White, acting police, crime and victims’ commissioner, added: “This initiative forms part of a wider partnership approach we are taking with public health colleagues to introduce naloxone in County Durham and Darlington to reduce harm and save the lives of people who suffer from problematic drug issues.”
“The fundamental role of a police officer is the preservation of life.
“We have already trained our custody staff, and now by equipping select frontline officers for example road policing officers with naloxone, and by offering take-home naloxone upon release from custody, we may be able to prevent further drug-related deaths.
“It is a sensible step to issue these life-saving kits to our RPU and response officers, as they are often the first people to arrive on scene. It does not replace the need for medical professionals, it simply enhances a person’s chance of survival, until appropriate medical care can administer further treatment.”