Richmond police officers and firefighters will now carry Naloxone, or Narcan, when responding to calls.
On Tuesday, the Richmond Commission heard from department chiefs about their experiences and statistics in response calls to overdoses, and their staffs’ thoughts on carrying the nasal-spray.
According to Richmond Police Department Chief of Police Rodney Richardson, from Sept. 3, 2020 to Aug. 19, 2021, RPD responded to 142 calls where Narcan was administered by EMS. This does not include those who were deceased from overdose on arrival.
In the original discussion which sparked the debate of having other public safety agencies carrying Narcan, it was thought that officers sometimes arrive before EMS, and can perhaps administer the Narcan before other assistance arrives.
Richardson said the average response time for an officer compared to EMS is four minutes.
“So when the officer gets there, four minutes later on average — this is average — EMS is there,” he said before the commission. “It gives the officer enough time to make the scene safe, and gives the officers enough time to figure out what is going on, and then usually, usually (EMS) is there.”
In addition to gathering this information, Richardson sent out a survey to his officers to get their opinion on what they thought about officers being required to carry Narcan.
“This is a little bit out of the law enforcement norm,” Richardson said. “This isn’t crime fighting, this is to save a life and maybe mix in with a little bit of medical stuff. So I thought, ‘Let’s get their feedback,’ because we don’t want to put a lot more on them than what they think they can handle.”
The chief gave his department a four-question survey which asked if officers need to carry Narcan; If they wished they had Narcan upon arrival of former calls; If they agreed or disagreed with it being a good idea for the community to carry Narcan; and Choose your feelings about Narcan.
Of 46 responses given received from the 58 total sworn officers, 45% said officers did not need to carry Narcan, while 54% said ‘yes.’
A majority —67%— said they have not desired Narcan after arrival. Richardson said this lines up with the number of response times. However, 32% said ‘yes.’
In addition, 73.9% of responding officers said they are either ‘neutral’ or ‘strongly agree,’ and 26.1% disagreed.
Finally, 67% of responding officers voted that officers should be allowed, but not required to carry Narcan.
“But we know, in the idea of public safety there is no ‘What ifs’ and if you want to, it is either we do it, or we don’t do it,” Richardson said. “Which puts me back to the first questions we had, and they are in support of it. I honestly think that, with proper training and policy implementation, and us getting the Narcan free from the Kentucky Pharmacy Association, I don’t really think there is a negative to it. I think it is positive in nature.”
Richardson said to get this up and going, he would need to set up a policy, which was simple. The Kentucky League of Cities has a model policy where the city can adapt to the city’s needs and operations, fill out forms from the Pharmacy Association, get the training — which takes about 30 minutes — and issue out the free Narcan.
“It is pretty simple,” he said. … “There should be zero costs associated with this once we do it. The only thing we have to do, is basically, I have to fill out paperwork and get the Narcan here, issue it out and get a policy in place, get the training done and we are good. Once we implement it, we can be up and running.”
Richmond Fire Chief Sam Kirby said the fire department’s percentages would be right around the same of RPD’s responses.
“Our mindsets are all basically the same,” Kirby said. “I have heard from some that want to carry and I have heard from some that don’t want to carry. … I am definitely not against carrying it. It is another tool in our bag.”
In addition, Richardson reached out to the city of Berea Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff’s Office heads to see their policies on carrying Narcan.
According to Richardson, the BPD carries Narcan in their cruisers, not on their person, mostly for officer use. The Madison County Sheriff's Office does carry it on their person, and has done so for several years.
Several of the commissioners shared comments in support of the idea.
“I would rather have it available and not use it, than not have it and need it,” said Commissioner Mike Brewer.
“It’s there and it’s free. I think your approach and deliverance was excellent,” said Commissioner Jim Newby of Richardson’s report.
A resolution was unanimously approved from the commissioners who were present with the exception of Commissioner Ed McDaniel who was absent from the workshop meeting.
At a previous commission meeting, Laura Helvey with S.P.A.R.K Ministries, an office providing one-on-one assistance for finding treatment needed for families dealing with substance abuse, asked the commission if it would be possible to provide first responders in the city, such as police and fire, with Narcan for when they help assist in overdose calls.
Helvey lost her son from overdose and has been an advocate ever since for Narcan and further education on substance use disorder.
She said she was so excited about the city’s decision, as well as the departments’, to carry a tool which could have saved her son’s life.
“I am very happy,” she said. “(Richardson) is a man of his word. A lot of times when you go and you present something, it is all about the things to say to the public but I followed up with him and he said he was looking at numbers and then he did. He looked at the numbers and I think he did what was absolutely the best. I was prepared either way, whatever it was. You do have to take into account the feelings of the officers and it just goes to show that we have a great police department who care about the community.”