HANCOCK COUNTY — It’s credited with saving thousands of lives across the state, but an overdose antidote that soon will be readily available to Hoosiers has police worried addicts are being given a crutch to keep using.
Naloxone, known commonly by the brand name, Narcan, is a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and it soon will be available without a prescription at pharmacies statewide. But local law enforcement officials said they’re divided on whether they support the drug being available to the public.
Lawmakers said naloxone has been credited with saving the lives of nearly 9,000 people in Indiana — including six in Hancock County — who were administered the drug by medical and public safety officials; but police worry broader access to the medication will give addicts a false sense of security, keeping them from getting the help and treatment they need.
Sixty prescriptions for Narcan were distributed to Hancock County sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers from Fortville, New Palestine and Cumberland police departments last spring as part of a grant program.
Five of the six Narcan doses delivered in Hancock County in the past year were used by officers in Fortville.
Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer said he has mixed feelings about putting the tool in the hands of citizens.
The new law would offer more security to the families of drug users, giving them the option to keep an antidote on hand to use in an emergency, but he wonders if addicts will keep using if life-saving measures can be acquired so easily.
“The goal is to save lives — I get that — but you have to ask, are we enabling them?” Knauer said.
Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, who co-authored the legislation, said those concerns came up as lawmakers penned the bill.
But keeping people alive was the priority, Crider said. The hope is that if those who overdose are saved, they will finally seek treatment for their addiction, he said.
The first responders who carry naloxone go through training to ensure they know how to administer the drug properly, said Sheriff’s Maj. Brad Burkhart.
It’s not difficult to use, but Burkhart said he has concerns about residents who are not well-trained taking live-saving measures into their own hands.
Once naloxone is behind the counter, pharmacists will take on the responsibility of teaching patrons to administer the drug in the event of an overdose, Crider said.
Dave Bush, who owns and operates Medicap Pharmacy in Greenfield, said pharmacists already do a lot of teaching about drugs and proper administration as part of the care they offer customers, so adding naloxone instructions to their repertoire will not be a burden.
Local police said they’ll continue to carry naloxone and will administer it in emergencies because they can’t deny its effectiveness. They are already working to acquire grant money for doses of the drug.
Mike Cushing, a reserve deputy with the sheriff’s department who was instrumental in bringing Narcan to the county last year, said he’s been in contact with Overdose Lifeline Inc., an Indiana-based organization charged with helping individuals, families and communities struggling with addiction, in the hope that the group will once again provide the county the funding needed to purchase more Narcan.