Port Wentworth police officers outfitted with Narcan - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Port Wentworth police officers outfitted with Narcan

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

On the heels of President Trump declaring the opioid epidemic in America a national emergency, local agencies are getting a boost to help save lives on the ground in Chatham County. 

Tuesday, all Port Wentworth police officers were outfitted with kits of potentially life-saving Narcan - the drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. 

Fifteen overdose cases over the past two years - two of them deadly - was enough to prompt the city of Port Wentworth to move forward with outfitting each of their 44 public safety officers with the Narcan kits. Leading the presentation to a room full of firefighters and police officers was Lesli Messinger. 

"The last words I said to him, and what I always said to him when I left him was, 'You are my heart," said Messinger, Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition. 

Messinger lost her son to an opioid overdose and is focusing her efforts on teaching anyone who will listen about the danger of opioid overdose and treatment. Before the first of this month, the Port Wentworth Police didn't have a Narcan policy and had to wait for paramedics to get on scene to treat overdose patients. Tuesday, the kits were handed out to any officer or firefighter who didn't already have one. 

"It's the one-dose, one-nostril, it's four milliliters. You can't give too much either."

A major with the department admits the cost for the kits has always been a hurdle. 

"Costs roughly $3,500 to outfit each officer with a Narcan container, or pouch that you saw earlier," said Major Lee Sherrod, Port Wentworth PD. 

Department leadership is now encouraging each officer to not only carry the kits while on-duty - but also off - recognizing the need to save a life could happen at any time.

"And if they see a situation where they can help, we encourage them to jump in and help," Maj. Sherrod said. "By seeing the EMS getting there and us basically not being able to do anything until they arrived and administered the Narcan to reverse the opiates, and the increased level of overdose due to the opiates...our director decided to act with the backing of the city, and we bought Narcan for each officer within the department of public safety.'

In addition to learning how to give Narcan to someone having an overdose, officers and firefighters also got to ask an addiction medicine specialist about drugs they've encountered on the streets, including fentanyl. The doctor also weighed in on the recent presidential declaration of an opioid national emergency, saying that move will likely open up funding resources for overdose prevention education, as well as make medicine like Narcan more widely available. 

"It's something that, in my mind, was very overdue, and we're glad to see it. We're just having over 150 Americans overdosing each day, and it's just a terrible tragedy to see that kind of waste, that waste of life," said Dr. Ray Gaskin, Addiction Medicine Specialist. 

Major Sherrod says the K-9 Unit even has their own Narcan kit - a dose that can be given to the dog just in case they come into contact with potentially deadly opiates. 

Officers with Savannah-Chatham Metro Police, Tybee Island, and now Port Wentworth are all outfitted with the treatment, though Tybee's officers are nearly out and the chief says they'll be asking council for additional funding for more Narcan. That leaves Garden City, Bloomingdale, Pooler, and Thunderbolt without. Bloomingdale's chief says he's planning to ask council for funding for his officers. 

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