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State gives Long Island police Narcan for heroin overdoses

A kit with naloxone, also known by its

A kit with naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan, is displayed at the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City, N.J. on Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: AP / Mel Evans

Forty-one law enforcement agencies -- including eight on Long Island -- applied to receive supplies of the lifesaving heroin antidote Narcan during the first week of a new statewide program.

Nearly 200 Narcan kits were requested by Nassau and Suffolk County law enforcement agencies -- the most outside of the Mid-Hudson Valley, where 15 law enforcement agencies requested close to 400 kits, according to Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, whose office is spearheading the program.

Statewide, law enforcement agencies have applied for almost 1,000 kits since the program was announced on April 3, officials said.

"I'm extremely pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response to this new, lifesaving initiative," Schneiderman said in a statement. "This powerful antidote will help save lives and address the scourge of heroin destroying our communities. Now is the time to come together and make this a priority for New York State."

The state-funded Community Overdose Prevention program, or COP, seeks to equip all police officers with the antidote kit and the training to safely administer Narcan, generically known as naloxone.

Schneiderman said the COP program will provide funding using $5 million seized from drug investigations to supply police officers with kits of Narcan. Each kit costs about $60, Schneiderman said.

Heroin killed a record 121 people in Nassau and Suffolk in 2012 and at least 120 last year -- the two highest totals ever recorded, data show.

Suffolk police officials said theirs was the first department statewide to take part in a trial program in 2012 that equipped officers with the antidote. Suffolk officers have used it to save the lives of 184 overdose victims, according to the police department.

Nassau police officers have been using Narcan but exact figures were not available. The department says it has saved hundreds of lives with it.

The COP program has already supplied Suffolk County EMTs with the antidote. Narcan administered by Suffolk first responders saved 563 lives last year, according to Schneiderman's office.

The drug works by knocking opiate molecules from the brainstem's nerve receptors. It has no major side effects and is inert when narcotics aren't in the body.

An epidemic of prescription opioid and heroin overdoses in New York prompted state officials in 2006 to allow nonmedical personnel to administer the drug. Other states have enacted similar laws.

Long Island has become a thriving market for heroin dealers who use the Long Island Expressway to move heroin back and forth from New York City, leading Queens prosecutors to dub the road the "Heroin Highway" in 2012, officials said.

The fatal and nonfatal heroin overdoses reflect a nationwide trend toward more use of the drug as opioid pain pills that offer a similar high become harder to obtain amid increased regulations and a dwindling street supply, officials said.

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