Springfield Police officers began carrying nasal Naloxone (Narcan) on March 19, 2019.
The medication is attached to the automated external defibrillator (AED) in every marked, unmarked and undercover car used by the department so that each of the approximately 500 sworn officers who have access to an AED also have access to Narcan. Additionally, Narcan is available to all bureaus and in all satellite locations, and is located throughout the public safety complex.
"This has been an incredibly important program for our community, demonstrated by the over 300 life-saving doses our officers have given in three years," Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood said. "We know that seconds can be the difference between life and death after an opioid overdose, and the Narcan kits are a critical tool for officers to have at their disposal and to be able to use at a moment's notice, especially as police officers are oftentimes first on the scene for many types of calls."
The most recent data by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), released in November 2021, showed that opioid-related overdose deaths that occurred in Springfield have almost quadrupled since 2014, increasing from 31 confirmed deaths in 2014 to a current confirmed 119 deaths in 2020. Deaths almost doubled between 2017 and 2018 alone, but have remained relatively stable since 2018. These recorded deaths include any opioid-related overdose death in Springfield, including deaths that occurred at Springfield-area medical centers.
Implementing the Narcan program and committing department funding to purchase the medication was one of Superintendent Clapprood’s first initiatives when named acting commissioner in February 2019. The Hampden District’s Attorney’s Office has committed grant funding in recent years to provide Narcan for police and fire departments in the county, which provides the Springfield Police Department with funding to replenish supply as needed.
Proper use of the medication is taught to officers during the police academy as well as each year during in-service training. As part of the training, officers learn the appropriate circumstances for Narcan use, how to administer doses and proper disposal methods after a dose is given.
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 if administered to a person who is not overdosing and it has no potential for abuse.
In November 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that overdose deaths in the U.S. had for the first time exceeded 100,000 in a single calendar year, an increase of 28.5% from the same period the previous year. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl also increased in the 12-month period.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) data released in November 2021, there were 1,211 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths statewide between January-September 2021. Of the 1,032 opioid-related overdose deaths in the first six months of 2021, and where a toxicology screen was available, fentanyl was present in 92% of overdose deaths.
COVID-19 restrictions like quarantining and social distancing measures are thought to have exacerbated drug overdoses during 2020 because it was more difficult throughout the pandemic for those struggling with substance use disorder to access health resources and prevention and 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 those with substance use disorder.
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 do their job of serving and protecting our community. This has never been more evident than with the increase in opioid-related overdoses. Thanks to our SPD carrying Narcan, they can immediately respond to these unfortunate situations and save lives and just as important, steer them towards recovery program assistance. Since SPD started carrying Narcan in their vehicles over 328 lives have been saved, a testament to their selfless service to our community and those in need.”