Police in Pa. armed with opioid antidote, still no penalty for users

SHARON, Pa. (WYTV) – Law enforcement in Mercer County has started carrying naloxone — the opioid overdose reversal drug. Hermitage police finished training on how to use the antidote last week and in Sharon this week, officers started carrying it on Monday.

“Police are already out patrolling. We’re a lot closer to the residents where they are. Even if it’s 30 seconds, those 30 seconds could make the difference,” said Sharon Patrolman Geoff Ballard.

The department is responding to more overdoses every day.

“Our guys are experiencing them almost daily, if not every other day, that we’re getting a drug overdose,” Chief Gerald Smith said.

Each officer is now equipped with and trained to use naloxone. Police are protected by an extension of the Good Samaritan law, which gives officers permission to administer the drug to someone who needs it.

They’re starting out with 72 kits in stock, all donated and prescribed by a local doctor.

“We do have a grant in place to get us at least through next year and I understand that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is also working on state funding to keep the program going,” Smith said.

The Good Samaritan law in Pennsylvania is different than an act by the same name in Ohio. In Ohio, people who overdose are given the option of going into recovery instead of being arrested.

Chief Smith said in Pennsylvania, people who overdose cannot be arrested unless officers find drug paraphernalia.

Residents raised some concern,¬†questioning if a person who overdoses doesn’t get in trouble, what’s stopping them from doing it again?

“Of course, save them and help them rehabilitate themselves, but we should start to pay attention to how many doses are getting administered to the same struggling people,” Alaine Jewel said.

Smith said currently, there’s no way to stop repeat offenders or charge them, but law enforcement’s primary focus is to save lives.

“The law at least needs to look at requiring them to at least go to a drug rehab or face criminal charges,” he said.

The officers will carry the kits in medical bags with other tools to help during overdose calls. They’ll even keep toys on hand for traumatized children whose parents have overdosed in front of them.