Mathews Sheriff’s Office secures grant for naloxone

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Sep 12, 2018 - 10:56 AM

Photo: Mathews County Sheriff Mark Barrick and Investigator April Edwards display the REVIVE! kits they obtained through a grant from the Richmond pharmaceutical company Kaléo. The grant supplied enough kits for all Mathews County deputies and all Virginia Marine Police officers in the Middle Region. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Mathews County Sheriff Mark Barrick and Investigator April Edwards display the REVIVE! kits they obtained through a grant from the Richmond pharmaceutical company Kaléo. The grant supplied enough kits for all Mathews County deputies and all Virginia Marine Police officers in the Middle Region. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

With opioid overdoses on the rise in Virginia, the Mathews County Sheriff’s Office has taken steps to make sure every officer is equipped with and trained to use a kit containing naloxone, a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Not only that, but the sheriff’s office has also made sure that all Virginia Marine Resources Commission officers in the Middle Region are equipped and trained, as well.

Investigator April Edwards of the sheriff’s office said that there were 1,227 opioid overdoses statewide last year, a 7.8 percent increase from 2016, when incidents had also increased from the previous year, following a trend that has shown steady increases in opioid deaths since 2012.

Last September, Edwards applied for and was awarded a grant from Kaléo, a privately-held pharmaceutical company in Richmond, for 20 Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services REVIVE! kits, each of which contains an injector containing a dose of naloxone, known in this instance by the trade name Evzio.

This year, upon discovering that local Virginia Marine Patrol officers had authorization to carry the kits but had not been supplied with them, Edwards applied for a much larger grant that included 45 packages of naloxone, with a total value of over $200,000 worth of donated injectors. In addition, while last year’s injectors held 0.4 mg of naloxone, said Edwards, this year the strength of the devices has been increased to a full 4 mg in order to counter the effects of an overdose of fentanyl, the potent prescription pain medication that is highly addictive and that reportedly can cause an overdose if a person’s skin simply comes into contact with it. There is no risk of harming a person with naloxone, said Edwards, so the same dosage works for an adult or a child who might have accidentally ingested a narcotic.

Edwards said that in Mathews, all duty personnel have been trained, from Sheriff Mark Barrick to courtroom personnel. Although naloxone is available in an inhalable form, she said, the grant covers the cost of injectable naloxone so that law enforcement personnel can keep their distance from a patient who might become combative or even aggressive when suddenly revived.

“You have to get pretty close to a person to put something in their nose,” she said, while the injectable form can be administered in the thigh.

Capt. Jamie Green of VMRC’s Middle Area said that the Mathews County Sheriff’s Office had been “welcoming and generous” in including his 14 officers and command staff in the grant.

“It’s nice to get our hands on it,” he said. “It could save somebody’s life.”

Although none of his officers have dealt with incidents of opioid overdose over the past year, Green said that they have interacted quite a few times with people who have later had an overdose and who might have had fentanyl or other opioids in their possession during their interactions with his officers.

“We were concerned we might come into contact with material and not be able to react to save someone’s life,” he said. “It’s getting prevalent just about everywhere, but especially in rural areas.”

Not only might there be members of the public who could be at risk, said Green, but his officers could be at risk, as well. If contact occurs on a boat, he said, “There’s no way you could get to shore.”

“We spend a lot of time on the boat,” he said, “and by the time you got to shore, it would be too late.”

Asked why the marine police had to go through a county agency to obtain naloxone, Lt. Col. Warner Rhodes said that VMRC had tried several avenues for obtaining the drug but had been unsuccessful. The drug manufacturers required that the agency sign a no-harm clause, but state law forbids such agreements, he said. And an application for a grant through the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services was turned down because the board didn’t think there was enough need. VMRC didn’t have the funds to supply each of its 67 field officers with the drug, he said, so the only way to obtain it was to find local agencies that would include the marine patrol in their programs.

“We were running into a stone wall,” said Rhodes, “so the Mathews County Sheriff’s Office was gracious enough to include us in their grant, for which we are grateful. Sometimes people in law enforcement have to go to extreme measures to get what they need.”

Agencies in other areas have stepped up, too, said Rhodes, but so far the Southern Area doesn’t yet have a sponsor.