THE QUINCY police set an example for the nation when they began carrying an anti-overdose drug called naloxone in 2010. Deaths from heroin or prescription drug overdoses in the city plunged — and Washington noticed. An Obama administration official recently touted the “Quincy model,” and attorney general Eric Holder urged first responders to carry the drug. Unfortunately, even as this tested-in-Massachusetts idea gains traction nationally, other cities in the Commonwealth have been too slow on the uptake.
Only about a half-dozen other police forces in the Commonwealth are believed to carry naloxone, also sometimes known as Narcan. The police department in Milford became the fifth earlier this year. But many others have dragged their feet.
In part, that’s because the nasal spray form of naloxone used in Quincy and elsewhere isn’t FDA-approved, which had some departments fearing legal liability if they used an unauthorized delivery device. But it also seems to come from generalized resistance to police taking on medical roles.
Yet police are sometimes the first to the scene of an overdose, and several recent developments should address their fears. A new state Good Samaritan law absolves from liability anyone who uses naloxone to treat an overdose. The FDA has also announced approval of a new delivery device on Thursday, which should calm worries about having officers use an unapproved method. And as part of an emergency order, Governor Patrick made naloxone available through standing-order prescriptions at pharmacies for law enforcement.
Massachusetts hasn’t required first responders to carry naloxone. But the state is chipping away at the excuses not to. Heroin and prescription-drug abuse touches every community in Massachusetts, and local police departments should step up to their important role in battling this epidemic.