Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

March 14, 2014

Benzie sheriff combats drug overdoses

BEULAH — A nasal spray could help reverse Benzie County's wave of fatal drug overdoses.

Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel counts his deputies as the first in Michigan to carry Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin and other opiate overdoses. He's received calls from his law enforcement counterparts across the state, including in Oakland County, who also look to equip their officers with the nasal spray dose.

"We wanted to do it here, because even if we save one life it's worth it," he said.

Three Benzie County residents died in drug overdoses last year and authorities continue to grapple with what's been a persistent problem for the rural area.

Schendel said a Facebook message from a woman who lost her brother in a fatal drug overdose brought one potential solution to his attention: police in Quincy, Mass., used Narcan, or naxolone, to reverse about 200 opiate overdoses since 2010.

"Time is of the essence," Schendel said. "Often times, police are there first. If you're in the correct time period, we can administer Narcan."

Deputies added Narcan nasal spray to their gear in December after a short training program with Benzie County EMS Director Craig Johnson. He said Narcan is a fairly safe drug, but deputies needed to learn how and when to use it, or not.

"It's a fairly short training but it's specific to that drug," he said.

Johnson said protocol makes it more difficult for first responders to receive training with the drug than law enforcement officers. Schendel said each dose costs about $21 and Benzie County EMS picked up the $300 tab.

Deputies haven't yet used Narcan, but it couldn't have saved the county's last overdose victim. Schendel said Christopher Glen Hobart, 21, died hours before emergency personnel arrived at his Weldon Road residence in February.

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