The Capitol Police’s 89 officers now carry Naloxone, the life-saving auto-injector used to reverse opioid drug overdoses, Gov. Tom Wolf has announced.
“I want to save lives, that’s the bottom line,” he told a room full of reporters gathered in the governor’s reception room. “This is a huge problem. We have to remember this is a disease. Addiction is a disease just like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and we need to treat it as such. Giving Capitol Police Naloxone is just one more part of this effort to combat the deadly effects of drug overdose in Pennsylvania.”
Former Gov. Tom Corbett signed Act 139 in September 2014, which authorized law enforcement and firefighters to carry Naloxone. In the 15 months since, Wolf says 450 lives have been saved.
“In October, my administration took the step of signing a statewide standing order for Naloxone as part of our fight against the addiction and overdose epidemic in our state,” he said. “Now, we are bringing that fight to the very steps of the Capitol with the ability for the Pennsylvania Capitol Police to now carry and administer this life-saving medication.”
In 2014, there were 2,400 heroin overdose deaths statewide. Citing the most recent Pennsylvania State Coroners Association report, Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said Wednesday “as many as seven people or more are dying every day in our state from drug overdoses.”
Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy called heroin addiction “the worst public health crisis we [Pennsylvania] have experienced.”
“Naloxone is just one of the tools that we are trying to make widely available to prevent death from drug overdose,” she said. “We believe hundreds of lives have been spared across the commonwealth.”
Capitol Police Superintendent Kevin Brown said the department encountered 12 overdose incidents in 2015 — a dramatic increase from the one case reported in 2014. He says the department’s jurisdiction extends beyond the state Capitol to the city of Harrisburg and neighboring Susquehanna Township.
That’s why, said Department of General Services Secretary Curtis Topper, the state accepted a $20,000 grant from Kaleo Pharmaceuticals to stock Naloxone and train officers how to use it.
“This is a significant enhancement to the capabilities of Pennsylvania Capitol Police officers,” he said. “Many times, Pennsylvania Capitol Police officers are called upon to assist local law enforcement agencies and are the first responders on scene. In a situation such as a drug overdose, the ability to administer Naloxone in a timely manner can be the difference between life and death. This will allow our officers to continue to protect the well-being and safety of those who visit, work and live in the areas of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police jurisdiction and the surrounding areas.”
The auto-injectors cost $200 per unit, Topper said. Officers complete a mandatory 30-minute online training course and a 45-minute demonstration on how to use the device, identify a potential overdose victim and how to seek additional medical attention.
Topper said all future officers will receive the training too.