Minneapolis police to begin carrying Narcan for opioid overdoses

The Minneapolis Police Department is launching training for its officers to administer the life-saving drug naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, to opioid overdose victims.

The effort follows a nationwide trend over the last couple of years as police departments and emergency response agencies train to respond to the opioid epidemic. Once the officers complete the training, they will be able to carry the drug in the field.

During the four-hour training, the officers watched body camera video of a heroin overdose in Minneapolis from six weeks ago. The footage illustrated what signs to look for, but also demonstrated a dramatic surge in the problem. 

“If through this program we can save one life, I’d say at the end of the day that this program is worth it,” said Mayor Jacob Frey.

In 2016 and 2017, Minneapolis police recorded about 250 opioid overdoses each year. Among the drugs used included heroin, fentanyl and prescription drugs.

“As I stand before you today in this early part of April, we have well over 200 [overdoses] right now, so this is a critical time in our communities,” said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

The nasal spray, Narcan, blocks the opioid receptors in the brain and can save the lives of overdose victims.

“I could take it right now, it wouldn’t affect me,” said Sgt. Griffin Hillbo, a Narcan trainer. “So if we misdiagnose and someone’s possibly intoxicated or has some other kind of injury or medical incident, it won’t affect them at all.”

Minneapolis Police Department trails other departments across the state in getting Narcan. The city’s fire department started carrying it two years ago and has since used it more than 450 times.

In addition to more opioids overdoses, more potent opioids, like carfentanil, also pose a threat to officers. If they come in contact with the drug at a scene, they could accidentally overdose.

“We will be equipping every officer with naloxone by the year’s end,” said Mayor Frey. “They will have the necessary training.”