WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office remains one of the few law enforcement agencies in our area whose deputies do not carry Narcan, a potentially life-saving drug that can immediately block the effects of an opioid overdose.
County commissioners and PBSO sparred over the decision at a recent meeting.
Narcan, a brand name for the drug naloxone, can be safely administered by almost anyone, without any formal training. And it can stop an opioid overdose in its tracks. Last year more than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose.
But PBSO, the largest law enforcement agency in our area, says it already has enough on their plates, and medical decisions like this should be left to paramedics, not law enforcement.
Staci Katz's 30-year-old son has been battling addiction since he was 16.
“He has had some long-term sobriety and has done really well, and then unfortunately has had recurrences,” she told CBS 12 News reporter Andrew Lofholm in an interview Tuesday.
“And so Narcan has saved his life multiple times?” Lofholm followed up.
“Yes, it has.”
It’s why she helped start Our2Son’s nonprofit to help make naloxone available to as many people and groups as possible including PBSO.
“These things that are carried in my little pocket here are called Narcan. There’s no reason why our deputies cannot carry this,” she said at the recent meeting during public comment.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay addressing PBSO Chief Frank DeMario, who was speaking on PBSO’s behalf.
“I have to ask, Chief DeMario, what makes Palm Beach County so special that you feel the need to not carry it?” McKinlay asked.
DeMario says PBSO already deals with enough, adding that it should me a decision by medical professionals, not law enforcement. Plus, he adds, no one has died because deputies don’t carry it.
“You’re asking to put another tool in our toolbox, and I think it’s asking too much of what we do,” he said. “Not one person that I can see in the couple of years that we’ve been doing this, did we lose a life when deputies got there before Fire-Rescue. It was 8 times, and we did CPR until Fire-Rescue got there, took them to the hospital and nobody died.”
On top of being a mother, Katz is a retired New York City police officer.
Lofholm asked her, “The sheriff’s office says look, this is a medical thing, who are we law enforcement to decide if somebody is overdosing or not, we need to leave it to medical professionals. What do you say back to that?”
“Why do they have defibrillators?” she said. “For them to say they don’t want another tool in their toolbelt is really a punch to the stomach, because when I was on the job, there weren’t tasers yet, right. We didn’t have tasers on our toolbelt. But when tasers came into play after I was gone from the job, now it’s on your tool belt.”
The National Institute of Health says Narcan is completely harmless if given to someone who isn’t overdosing on opioids, so there’s no risk there.
Because Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is an elected constitutional officer, it’s entirely up to him. The county commissioners can’t require the office to change its policy.