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Oak Park Police now equipped to address drug overdoses

Oct. 13, 2016 – The Oak Park Police Department is more prepared than ever to assist citizens experiencing an overdose caused by heroin or prescription pain relievers classified as opioids.

Starting today, officers and sergeants assigned to field duties are carrying automated external defibrillator (AED) cases equipped with doses of Naloxone, a fast-acting drug that can save the life of an overdose victim by blocking the effect of opioids in the brain.

Over the past week, officers, sergeants and command staff were trained in administering the drug, which can quickly restore breathing and often save the life of anyone experiencing an overdose from heroin or prescription pain relievers.

“Reducing the time between the onset of an overdose and effective intervention can be a matter of life and death,” Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose said. “By having access to Naloxone, our officers in the street can act quickly if they encounter someone experiencing an overdose. This really is a commonsense measure that can help save lives.”

Oak Park firefighter/paramedics have been equipped with Naloxone since the 1980s and will continue to carry the drug for emergency situations. But police often are first on the scene and equipping them with the drug may mean the difference in life and death when seconds count, officials say.

“We are pleased that our colleagues in the Oak Park Police Department are now carrying Naloxone,” Oak Park Fire Chief Thomas Ebsen said. “While our firefighter/paramedics pride themselves on responding to emergencies in a matter of minutes, police officers at times have a quicker response to an overdose incident simply because they are already on the street. Equipping both police officers and paramedics for when these situations arise is a positive for our community.”

Equipping officers with Naloxone also brings the Oak Park Police Department into compliance with a new state law that took effect earlier this year requiring police departments in Illinois to carry what experts call an opioid antagonist in an effort to reduce overdose deaths.

While opioid overdoes are not common in Oak Park, they do occur. Oak Park firefighter/paramedics administered Naloxone 43 times in 2015 and 46 times in 2014. Officials say heroin users that purchase the drug in Chicago often seek a safe place to consume the drug in suburban communities such as Oak Park.

Statewide, the Centers for Disease Control said overdose deaths increased 8.3 percent in Illinois from 2013 to 2014, placing the state among 14 that had significant increases.

The Oak Park Police Department acquired the doses of Naloxone, often sold under the brand name Narcan, at no cost through a grant from the Cook County Overdose Prevention Program. All police departments within Cook County are eligible to receive a portion of the grant based on need.

Two Naloxone doses will be included in each of the 19 new AED cases the police department recently acquired to replace outdated AED units. The cases are a one-stop first responder kit equipped everything from gloves and scissors to mouth guards and wipes.

More information about opioid overdose prevention can be found at the Cook County Sheriff’s website.