WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa — Big things come in small packages. “It is a critical tool for our officers to have that to save a life,” said Windsor Heights Police Chief Chad McCluskey.
The Iowa Department of Public Health received an additional allocation of $2.3 million dollars for a state opioid response grant and they hope to supply every law enforcement agency, city, town, tribal police officer or county sheriff’s deputy with two doses of Narcan. IDPH Opioid Treatment Program Director Kevin Gabbert said, “If all six thousand officers were to come forward, we’d be looking at about $450,000 for that purchase and we are willing to do that because we do have grant funds available.”
The IDPH says opioid involved deaths have dropped from 206 in 2017 to a preliminary 137 in 2018 and they believe increased availability of Narcan to the public has helped. “We don’t want to lose any more Iowans,” said Gabbert.
Police are often the first to encounter a victim of an opioid overdose and Chief McCluskey and his department were in the process of purchasing kits for their officers. “We don’t currently have it. We just wrote a new policy to cover it within the last couple of months,” said McCluskey.
Until the initiative, police departments across the state could buy Narcan kits from the IDPH for $75 a kit. Now that money can be used elsewhere for cash strapped departments across the state. McCluskey said, “When we build budgets we try to plan for what is going to come up and something like this, where I need fifteen to twenty at $75 a piece, that is a chunk out of my budget not planned for at the time.”
In less than 24 hours, it’s reach has branched out. “We had a call from the Department of Natural Resources and they said we have individuals that come into contact with people whether it be in a park setting or things like that. We’ve extended the opportunity to those individuals as well,” Gabbert said.
In March a Fort Dodge officer was unresponsive after being exposed to an unknown substance. Narcan brought him back. On Friday, April 5th an Iowa State Penitentiary staff member fell extremely ill from an unknown substance. “That brings everything to a screeching halt when we get an officer, firefighter or medic injured as a result of a substance that somebody has,” said McCluskey.
Four milligrams, saving lives and dollars. It is worth its weight in gold to have that stuff on board,” McCluskey said.