As of March 1st 2019, MPD has announced that it will issue nasal Naloxone to its members. The policy includes a provision that "In the event that a civil action is brought against an authorized officer who administers Naloxone consistent with MPD policy and training while acting in a law enforcement capacity, the officer will be afforded legal representation by the Office of the Attorney General." The DC Police Union would also like to emphasize DC Code § 7–403 (f), which states "Notwithstanding any other law, it shall not be considered a crime for a person to possess or administer an opioid antagonist, nor shall such person be subject to civil liability in the absence of gross negligence, if he or she administers the opioid antagonist: (1) In good faith to treat a person who he or she reasonably believes is experiencing an overdose..."
We would like to applaud MPD, Mayor Bowser, and the D.C. City Council for taking this step toward combatting the opioid crisis in D.C. and passing legislation to save lives.
Naloxone is an opioid antagonist or effectively a temporary opioid antidote. It works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain to reverse and prevent the effects of other opioids. While it is recommended that the injectable form of Naloxone be administered by trained medical professionals, the nasal spray can be administered after understanding some simple instructions. In fact, Naloxone is being distributed to teachers, nurses, and staff in schools, libraries, and YMCAs.
Police officers and other first responders across the country are coming into contact with opioids on a daily basis. The U.S. Surgeon General has stated that the nation is in the midst of an opioid epidemic and reported that the number of overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids has doubled from 21,089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. In particular, Washington, D.C. suffers from one of the highest rates of opioid overdose and the majority of MPD members can recall being first on scene to a heroin, crack cocaine, or fentanyl-laced K2 overdose call. Even more members have witnessed medical first responders save an overdose patient’s life by administering Narcan or some other form of Naloxone. The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition has identified 2,482 police agencies that issue some form of Naloxone to its officers. Further, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that there are no known side effects to Naloxone in someone not experiencing an opioid overdose, i.e., there are no dangers in administering Naloxone to a patient who has been misdiagnosed as experiencing an opioid overdose.
Naloxone has already proven itself in the police arena. Officers come into contact with opioids in many forms, including heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanyl; the latter of which is manufactured as an elephant tranquilizer and a single dose as small as a grain of sand can be lethal to humans. All three are commonly used to spike batches of synthetic marijuana and other less potent drugs. In Columbus, OH, an officer experienced an opioid overdose while making a drug arrest; fortunately, his partner saved his life with the administration of nasal Naloxone. In Harford County, MD, an officer closed a nightstand drawer in an opioid user’s home and was instantly exposed to an opioid in powder form, prompting EMS personnel to administer nasal Naloxone to save his life. In that case, an EMS responder who assisted the officer on scene and another who went with the initial victim to the hospital were both treated for opioid exposure. Many other cases exist of first responders being exposed to lethal doses of opioids, sometimes by circumstance and others through intentional harm, such as when officers entered a drug house and suspects attempted to evade arrest by throwing Fentanyl into the air.
The DC Police Union backs the city's initiative to equip officers with Naloxone. While in many cases, medical first responders will arrive in time to administer Naloxone to citizens and officers exposed to opioids, in those rare circumstances where they are delayed, unable to reach a dangerous scene, or run out of Naloxone, it is imperative that police be prepared to administer the antidote. MPD officers on the front line are now able to administer this life-saving antidote.