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Narcan to be available statewide, says Schneiderman

A drug antidote kit containiing Narcan is shown

A drug antidote kit containiing Narcan is shown at the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance in Mineola Wednesday. (Aug. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: Chris Ware

An antidote to prevent opioid drug overdose deaths will soon be made available to every law enforcement agency in the state, funded with money seized from drug dealers, the attorney general's office plans to announce Thursday.

The Community Overdose Prevention, or COP, program will allow every state and local law enforcement officer to carry and administer naloxone -- known by it's brand name Narcan.

The antidote is administered through the nose to reverse the effects of heroin and other opioids.

Law enforcement agencies statewide have until June 3 to notify the Office of the Attorney General of their interest in participating.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman will unveil the program at a news conference Thursday morning at the Suffolk County Police Academy with County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

The program will be funded by $5 million in assets seized from drug dealers during joint federal and state criminal investigations and will cover the cost of the kits and training.

Suffolk was one of the first counties in the state to participate in a trial program that allowed its officers to carry and administer Narcan. So far, 1,100 officers on the force are trained to administer the lifesaving antidote, said Dr. Scott Coyne, the police department's chief surgeon and medical director.

"I think this is a wonderful initiative and a recognition of the problem that we have," said Coyne adding the department averages 10 rescues a month and has saved 184 lives since the pilot program launched in 2012.

The program allowed Suffolk County EMTs with basic training to administer the antidote as well. In all, 563 lives were saved in Suffolk last year, Schneiderman's office said.

"Arming the police officers with this medication, which is so quick and safe, it's a great thing," Coyne said. "To me it's amazing."

Riverhead Police Chief David J. Hegermiller said Narcan is not being used by his department, but "we've been waiting for it."

"We're usually the first on the scene of a drug overdose and to have that available is really, really important," he said.

Angie Ruhry's son Peter died at 23 of a heroin overdose in 2010.

Even though she lost her son, Ruhry credits Narcan with giving him 18 months of life because he also overdosed in 2009.

"Anyone who has lost a family member or a loved one knows what one more day with a loved one means," said Ruhry, who now advocates for Narcan and for removing the stigma of admitting that a loved one suffers from addiction. "Even though the outcome isn't what we had hoped, it's still 18 months. It's a gift."

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