Heroin overdoses are tragically common on the streets of Capitol Hill and Seattle Police officers are often close-by when they happen.
On Tuesday, SPD announced that 60 bike officers would begin a trial period carrying nasal naloxone, a heroin overdose antidote that experts say could save many more lives if made more widely available.
Under the six to eight month trial period, bike officers who encounter someone suffering from an opioid overdose will administer naloxone and stay with the person until medics arrive. SPD is partnering with the University of Washington to study the effects of the program.
“This is a momentous development in Seattle’s battle against heroin addiction. I am very grateful to Chief O’Toole for this partnership with the SPD which will definitely help save lives,” said Penny LeGate, founder of The Marah Project and member of the recently formed Task Force on Heroin and Prescription Opiate Addiction.
The Marah Project, named after LeGate’s 19-year-old daughter who died of a heroin overdose, helped raise the funds to purchase naloxone for SPD. CHS wrote about Marah’s story last year when LeGate spoke at summit on heroin overdoses at the UW.
Earlier this month city and county officials announced the formation of the heroin task force — a 30-member group charged with finding short and longterm strategies to slow the rise of opioid-related deaths. Improving overdose treatment access is one of the group’s primary directives.
There were 156 heroin-related deaths in King County in 2014 as the region saw a 58% spike that same year. It’s difficult to pin down just how many happen on Capitol Hill, but experts say the neighborhood is an overdose hotspot. The recent arrival of downtown homeless outreach workers to Capitol Hill was prompted in part by the rise of drug users living on the street.
Another program aimed at diverting drug users from jail and into treatment programs is also making its way to Capitol Hill. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion works by placing drug use suspects into counseling before they’re booked into jail.
Harm reduction advocates have long called for increased access to opioid overdose antidotes like naloxone. Last year, 43rd District Rep. Brady Walkinshaw sponsored a bill that did just thatby allowing pharmacists to prescribe naloxone to first responders, homeless shelters, and family members and permit them to administer it across the state. Walkinshaw also worked on a bill this session to expand the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, which attempts to stop prescription drug misuse by collecting all of a patients drug records.