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Nearly 1,800 people have died from heroin overdoses in the St. Louis area since 2007. St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch believes his department can do more to cut the numbers.
Fitch says when overdose calls come in, police arrive first on the scene about 30 percent of the time. That's why he's asking the county health department to write a prescription allowing officers to carry naloxone, also called Narcan. It's a fast-acting antidote for overdoses on opiates, like heroin and morphine. Police in some other U.S. cities are already using it to treat overdose victims before EMTs arrive.
Fitch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that equipping each car with two-doses is affordable, costing the department about $1,500.
A bill sponsored by Republican state Representative Bryan Spencer, would grant immunity from minor drug possession charges to overdose victims and people who get medical help for them. Ten other states, including Illinois, have already enacted the so-called "good Samaritan" laws. Spencer's bill is based on the Illinois model.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he supports the measure, saying that saving lives is more important than pursuing minor drug charges. But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch expressed doubts that the law would make much difference, telling the paper that people who abuse alcohol or heroin "aren’t the most responsible" people.
Advocates say the state can't afford to ignore the problem. They cite research by the Missouri Recovery Network and Roosevelt University, which suggests that heroin and opiate abuse poses a particularly deadly and growing threat in Missouri, especially the St. Louis area.