According to an announcement made by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, more than 2,000 officers in the county will now carry naloxone, a life-saving nasal spray that may reverse the effects of opioid overdoses.
They join the majority of sheriff’s offices throughout the state, including Broward, which started equipping officers with the medication in 2017, in an attempt to tackle a worsening opioid problem fuelled by the potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Broward was the first sheriff’s office in the state to do so.
Despite the fact that the community and local politicians had been calling for it for years, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office had previously taken a position against providing cops with naloxone, which is more commonly known by its brand name Narcan. Ric Bradshaw, the sheriff of Palm Beach County, confirmed his opinion on this matter.
“We are not paramedics,” the office’s chief of law enforcement operations, Frank DeMario, said at the meeting, which he attended on behalf of Bradshaw, who was recovering from heart surgery.
After that, in August, Bradshaw sent a letter to the board of county commissioners saying that he had changed his mind about what he had said before.
“In view of the current national opioid overdose epidemic and the large importations of fentanyl, we have decided to allow our deputies to carry Narcan,” the letter reads. “This falls short of a long-term solution to the addiction problem.”
He also said that the county would need to figure out a means to pay for the apparatus, which was estimated to cost about $200,000 total. On Tuesday, the office made the announcement that the HEROS Program of the Florida Department of Health had supplied all of the naloxone at no cost to the patients.
According to Teri Barbera, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, Bradshaw’s about-face occurred as a direct result of the comments and suggestions made by members of the community.
“He listened to the people,” Barbera said. “The people believe that PBSO deputies should carry it, and the sheriff agreed.”
According to a warning issued by the state department of health in Florida in July, the state has experienced a “exponential” surge in the number of drug overdoses, the vast majority of which were caused by fentanyl.
In the first half of 2021, there was a 5.5% rise in fatalities connected to opioids, and there was a 7% increase in deaths related to drug use, according to a study that was published in May by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. Fentanyl was the primary factor in most fatalities. The number of deaths caused by fentanyl in the West Palm Beach district was the sixth highest out of the state’s 25 medical examiner’s districts.