Springfield police officers began wearing nasal naloxone (narcan) on March 19, 2019.
The drug is hooked up to the automated external defibrillator (AED) in every marked, unmarked and undercover car used by the department, so any of the approximately 500 sworn officers who have access to an AED also have access to Narcan . In addition, Narcan is available at all offices and satellite locations and is installed throughout the public safety complex.
“This has been an incredibly important program for our community, as evidenced by the over 300 life-saving doses our officers have administered in three years,” said Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood. “We know that seconds after an opioid overdose can make the difference between life and death, and the Narcan kits are a crucial tool that officers have available and can use immediately, especially as police officers are often considered for many types of calls first on site.”
The latest data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), released in November 2021, showed that the number of opioid overdose deaths in Springfield has nearly quadrupled since 2014, from 31 confirmed deaths in 2014 to date confirmed 119 deaths increased in 2020. Deaths nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018 alone, but have remained relatively stable since 2018. These recorded deaths include all opioid overdose deaths in Springfield, including deaths that occurred at medical centers in the Springfield area.
Implementing the Narcan program and providing Department funds to purchase the drug was one of Superintendent Clapprood’s first initiatives when he was appointed Acting Commissioner in February 2019. The Hampden County Attorney’s Office has in recent years pledged grants to provide Narcan to the county’s police and fire services, which provides the Springfield Police Department with funds to top up supplies as needed.
Proper use of the drug is taught to officers during the Police Academy and each year during on-duty training. As part of the training, officers learn the appropriate circumstances for using Narcan, administering doses, and proper methods of disposal after a dose has been administered.
Narcan, an opioid antagonist, can quickly reverse the effects of a potentially fatal painkiller or heroin overdose by binding to opioid receptors and reversing or blocking the effects of other opioids, quickly restoring normal breathing. Narcan is not dangerous when administered to a person who is not overdosed, and there is no potential for abuse.
In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States had surpassed 100,000 in a single calendar year for the first time, a 28.5% increase from the same period last year. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, also increased over the 12-month period.
According to data released in November 2021 by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), there were 1,211 confirmed opioid overdose deaths nationwide between January and September 2021. Where a toxicology screen was available, fentanyl was present in 92% of overdose deaths.
COVID-19 restrictions such as quarantines and social distancing measures are believed to have exacerbated drug overdoses in 2020, as those struggling with addictions had a harder time accessing healthcare resources and prevention during the pandemic – and to receive recovery services. Earlier this month, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released model state laws aimed at expanding resources and access to treatment pathways and recovery services for people with addictions.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated, “God bless our brave and dedicated men and women of the Springfield Police Department. Day in and day out, our SPD officers continue to fulfill their duty to serve and protect our community. This has never been more evident than with the increase in opioid-related overdoses. Thanks to our SPD wearing Narcan, they can respond immediately to these unfortunate situations and save lives and, just as important, channel them in support of the recovery program. Since the SPD began transporting Narcan in their vehicles, over 328 lives have been saved, a testament to their selfless service to our community and those in need.”