There's widespread attention on an increase in heroin overdoses nationwide. On Monday, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder called it an "urgent public health crisis" and suggested law enforcement carry Narcan or naloxone, a drug that can reverse opiate overdoses.
In Connecticut, police don't carry it. If someone is suspected of overdosing on an opiate like heroin or morphine, paramedics and hospital staff administer the the drug. Hartford Police Department spokesman Deputy Chief Brian Foley recalls seeing Narcan work firsthand.
"I've seen it bring back people from the dead several times," Foley said. "That Narcan hits them, and they pop right back up, like nothing happened. It completely reverses the opiate's effect."
Other states, like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, train first responders on Narcan. Foley said Attorney General Holder's suggestion is timely, but he believes police officers carrying Narcan in Connecticut is a long way off.
"I'm certain it would be quite the process to get that going," Foley said. "It would have to go through the academy; the state; and of course, our union would have a say in it as well."
Meanwhile, drug overdose is a growing problem in the region. Foley said overdose deaths in the Hartford area have skyrocketed. "It's a very high percentage increase that we're concerned with," he said, "close to [an] eighty percent increase in overdose deaths from last year. We're on track in 2014 to outdo what we did in 2013."
Foley said many of these deaths are linked to opiates. They're still waiting for results from the Chief Medical Examiner's office on whether the overdoses were caused from individuals using heroin laced with fentanyl. This combination has caused numerous deaths throughout the northeast.
The medical examiner's office in Connecticut said that 257 people died from heroin-related overdose deaths last year, up from 174 in 2012. When looking at all drugs, there were 490 accidental deaths in 2013, up from 355 in 2012. Cocaine deaths have also increased.