Lawrence and Memorial Hospital is donating the life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan to six police departments around southeastern Connecticut.
The hospital has already supplied 30 kits containing doses of Narcan to Waterford Police and 25 to Stonington. It's now in talks with East Lyme, Groton City, Groton Town, and Ledyard on what resources they need.
Narcan costs around $40.00 a dose.
Hospital President Bruce Cummings said the outreach comes despite cuts to the hospital in the latest state budget.
"We paused and took stock of our mission, which is to improve the health of the community," he said. "And even though we had not anticipated or budgeted for this epidemic, we felt the scope of the crisis was so extraordinary that we were moved to make this important investment."
Cummings stressed, though, that Narcan is only a temporary solution, and many stakeholders have to come together to find resources to boost the availability of detox and rehabilitation treatment in the state.
"I'm reminded how much talk there is, and how little action," he said, "when I just saw that there were no fewer than 18 bills that passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Not one of them had any funding for prevention or treatment."
In the first three months of this year, L&M treated 47 overdose cases. Physicians say if the crisis continues at that pace, this year will see more overdoses than the previous two years combined.
Waterford Police Chief Brett Mahoney said the heroin crisis has proved challenging for already stretched resources.
"In an era when municipal budgets are being shrunk -- state cuts are occurring -- the fact that a private entity would reach out to us and offer us not only these lifesaving kits, but really a break for the taxpayer, is fantastic," said Mahoney.
Dr. Deirdre Cronin was working in the hospital's ER on the night of January 28, when L&M received a record seven overdose cases. She spoke about the opportunity that Narcan gives to intervene in an addict's disease.
"The reality of waking up in an emergency department, or in an ambulance, or with a police officer over them, after pretty much being clinically dead, often gives a brief moment of vulnerability," she said. "Sometimes we can intercept and get that person to agree to go to treatment."
Hospital emergency staff are also providing training for police crews in administering Narcan.