DuPage County using Narcan program to stop heroin overdoses

Officials there say more than two dozen heroin overdoses were stopped by police officers trained to use Narcan, the drug that's helping to slow the deadly effects of heroin use in DuPage County.

With his donation, Edward Heil hopes to help save others from the same type of fatal heroin overdose that claimed the life of his 18-year old grandson several months ago.

"It saves kids. Thats why it's so important. They're young, they don't understand," Heil said.

Unfortunately, the teen was not one of 25 people authorities say have been spared since the start of the new Narcan anti-drug program in DuPage County.

"So with $50,000, we have generated the ability to save 25 lives," said Karen Ayala, executive director of the DuPage County Health Department.

The initiative makes it possible for police officers to carry in their squads and use the overdose reversal drug as a life-saving tool despite the lack of FDA approval.

"The FDA has not caught up with the Department of Justice to approve this usage," said Richard Jorgensen, DuPage County coroner.

While paramedics long have been equipped to provide Narcan to overdose victims, the program began training -- officers in January on how to administer the drug. DuPage County officials recorded their first save in March.

"We here in DuPage County are beginning to reverse that trend," said DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba.

According to the county's coroner, this year, there have been 26 heroin overdose deaths in DuPage County compared with 48 deaths - including five teens in 2013 - and 39 the year before that.

Authorities say most users are 58 percent male and 79 percent white, between the ages of 19 and 29.
"I think what changes is purity of the heroin and the availability and the cost," said Brad Bloom, Hinsdale Police Department.

Officials say the DuPage County Narcan Program is a part of county effort to combat heroin, which has seen an uptick in usage.

"We are committed, we will not rest until DuPage County is heroin-free," said Dan Cronin, DuPage County Board chairman.

The program is possible because of a state law that took effect in 2010 that allows individuals without medical training to administer the drug to overdose victims.
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