Nation’s Sheriffs Announce Pilot Project In St. Lucie County, Fla To Train and Administer Anti-Overdose “Rescue Drug”

Saturday, August 20, 2016


(ALEXANDRIA, VA) With more than 100 overdose-related calls for service by emergency medical personnel just since June 1, St. Lucie County, FL sheriff’s deputies are now more prepared to save lives by rapidly administering an anti-overdose rescue drug thanks to a pilot program and grant from Purdue Pharma and the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA).

NSA CEO and Executive Director Jonathan Thompson said that four counties across the U.S., including St. Lucie County, are running a pilot program to train sheriffs’ deputies how to use the rescue drug naloxone and provide the drug to the local agencies. Purdue Pharma has provided the NSA with a $350,000 grant to launch the pilot program.

“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, St. Lucie County sheriffs’ deputies are equipped to fight back,” Thompson said.

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.

“Our deputies encounter opiate overdoses far too often, but now they’re able to do something about it thanks to the NSA and Purdue Pharma,” NSA Member and St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara said. “Recently, we have seen a dramatic up-swing in the number of overdose situations, many believed to result from heroin and opiate use growing throughout the U.S., including our county.”

“When we first learned of Purdue Pharma’s grant last November, we said 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,” Sheriff Mascara said.        

According to Sheriff Mascara, St. Lucie County deputies are provided a two-dose kit of naloxone that can be administered through intranasal means.

“The use of naloxone by our deputies is not to replace emergency medical treatment, but to serve as a stop-gap measure before EMS can arrive,” Mascara said. “This furthers illustrates our agency’s commitment to providing the best tools necessary to protect life and property in our community.” 

Florida had an increase of 4.8 percent in opioid drug-related deaths from 2013 to 2014 – for a total of 447 deaths in 2014, according to FDLE Office of the Medical Examiner. Poisoning is the leading cause of accidental death in Florida, with nine out of 10 being drug related. According to the Florida Department of Health, 80 percent of drug overdose deaths were accidental. While deaths from prescription drugs have relatively declined in recent years they have not declined at the rate at which heroin overdose has skyrocketed.