Armed in fight against heroin: Hermitage cops train to reverse overdose

HERMITAGE, Pa. (WYTV) – Hermitage police officers are training on how to use an opioid overdose reversal drug so they can save more lives on the job.

The opioid epidemic doesn’t discriminate — it’s affecting families across the Valley.

“I believe it’s much worse than what we know,” Chief Eric Jewell said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration was in Hermitage Wednesday to train officers on how to use naloxone to reverse an overdose.

“I’m quite certain they will have to use it to save a life,” said David Battiste, assistant special agent in charge, with the Pittsburgh DEA Office. “The epidemic is like one we’ve never seen.”

He knows firsthand how deadly the drug problem is in western Pennsylvania. In 2015, Battiste said the region lost 852 people to overdoses.

“That is not including the overdose survivors. That’s a fatality number. When you’re looking at numbers like that, a training like this is second to none.”

All 30 Hermitage officers will know how to use naloxone after the training.

Naloxone can also save an officer’s life if there is accidental exposure to the drug.

“If you have an accidental exposure, you want to be able to help your partner, your fellow officer, right away,” Battiste said.

There are critics of Naloxone, saying it only encourages someone to keep using. In some cases, first responders have to give multiple doses of naloxone to bring a person back.

“These folks are addicts. No one is going to say, ‘Naloxone is not around, I’m not going to use anymore,'” Battiste said. “In our view, any heroin addict that doesn’t succumb to a fatality is a possible success story.”

“I want to do my part for my community to try and save as many lives as possible as we can,” Jewell said.

Along with the training, Hermitage Police Department has to meet state requirements. Officers also have to complete an online certification course.