In a presidential campaign season marked by unprecedented uncertainty and an intensifying partisan divide, there has been one issue both Democratic and Republican candidates have agreed on as they’ve crisscrossed the country looking for votes this year.
From Trump to Clinton, from the vanquished to the victors, they all agree: The nation is in the grips of a harrowing opiate epidemic that threatens to destroy us from the inside.
But while the politicians talk, one pharmaceutical company has joined forces with law enforcement to take action, and their efforts and cooperation are saving lives.
Purdue Pharma has provided the National Sheriffs’ Association with a $350,000 grant to train sheriffs how to use the “rescue drug” naloxone and, in some cases, provide the drug to local offices.
This week, the National Sheriffs’ Association announced pilot programs with sheriff’s offices in St. Lucie County, Fla., Daviess County, Ky., Loudoun County, Va. and Jefferson County, Ala., where sheriff’s deputies will be trained to administer the anti-overdose drug in the field.
The battle against the heroin and opiate epidemic has claimed far too many casualties; our brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. Starting this week, sheriffs’ deputies fight back.
In 2014, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that drug overdose was the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., with more than 47,000 fatal overdoses. Of those, almost 19,000 were caused by prescription pain relievers, including illicitly manufactured Fentanyl, and more than 10,000 were related to heroin.
Forty-four people a day are dying from opiate overdoses, according to the CDC.
Those numbers demand action. Purdue Pharma has stepped up, and the National Sheriffs’ Association is grateful.
Our deputies are still encountering opiate overdoses, but now they’re able to do something about it.
There are already inspiring examples of our deputies, who are fighting the battle against opiate overdoses on the front lines, saving lives by employing anti-overdose drugs.
In Steuben County, N.Y., two sheriff’s deputies were honored this March for their heroics after using the life-saving kit on a man who had overdosed.
In Berrien County, Mich., a sheriff’s deputy used a NARCAN kit for the first time, saving the life of a 35-year-old man who had overdosed.
And just days later, in Grand Traverse County, Mich., sheriff’s deputies were able to use the kit to save the life of a 27-year-old woman. It was the fourth time that office had saved a life using Naloxone.
That’s six people in three counties in one month. Six people who would be dead. Six people who are alive because of their local sheriffs’ offices.
But there are still dozens dying every day.
Thanks to our sheriffs and their deputies, and with an assist from Purdue Pharma, help is on the way.
When we first learned of Purdue Pharma’s grant last November, we said in the press release that “deaths from opioid overdoses continue unabated.”
Thanks to the welcome and responsible efforts of Purdue Pharma and our deputies in the field, unabated is no longer the right word.
To be sure, the battle continues, but with the help of one pharmaceutical company, our deputies are fighting back and saving lives.
Cain is sheriff of Daviess County, (Ky.) and Thompson is CEO and executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association.