UPDATE: The Monroe County sheriff has reversed its directive after receiving dozens doses of naloxone from the c0unty health department. Read more here.
An Indiana county sheriff says officers will no longer use the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to emergency calls because of the department’s low supply.
Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain says the remaining doses will be reserved for emergency responders.
“As I was reading accounts of law enforcement officers just having a brush of fentanyl on their skin going into extreme distress, physical distress where they needed a dose of Narcan before being transported to emergency, I had a concern what our remaining stock was and if we had any available for our own officers if we should encounter some kind of drug that would give them that reaction,” Swain says.
Swain sent an email to officers Monday night notifying them of the change in policy. He says the department is down to about one naloxone kit per officer.
Monroe County is one of several communities the state supplied with naloxone and training as part of a grant program under former Attorney General Greg Zoeller. The program awarded money to three non-profit organizations, who distributed the overdose antidote to local law enforcement. Swain says he could ask the county council for additional funding to buy more naloxone, but he has no plans to do so.
“If I go to the county and ask for money for this, then local tax dollars are being diverted from something else within local government,” Swain says. “And, that includes I have about 20 Kevlar vests that are set to expire.”
Swain says one organization has already offered to donate an additional kit for each officer, but he says he wants officers to have at least three kits. Swain says he’s reached out to other organizations to replenish the supply.
Monroe County officers only administer the nasal spray version of the overdose antidote. Other kits require a needle to be injected to deliver the treatment.
“The nasal type of naloxone is hard to get right now, even from the organizations that supply those to public safety,” Swain says.
While the injectable version of naloxone is cheaper, Swain says it’s not practical for officers to use.
Swain acknowledges the department’s approach could be controversial, but he says it’s about keeping officers safe.
“There might be losses of life, I don’t know,” he says. “It’s all by chance. But, given that we are out of the supply, there’s not much we can do.”
Jeni O’Malley, Director of Public Affairs for the Indiana State Department of Health, says in an e-mail the agency hasn’t received reports of a statewide shortage of naloxone. She says the agency also has emergency caches of the overdose antidote that can be deployed when local supplies have been exhausted and resupply chains are inadequate.
This story originally appeared on WFIU News.