PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Police officers in Maine's largest city will soon carry a life-saving medication that reverses the effects of a drug overdose.
Equipping patrol officers with Narcan is part of the department's effort to deal with the opioid crisis in Portland.
Portland joins other communities including Westbrook and Bangor, which have police officers carry the life-saving medication. Firefighters and paramedics in the city have been using Narcan to revive patients for several years. Last year, it was administered 161 times — 50 percent more than the previous year.
Chief Michael Sauschuck announced the new policy at a news conference this Friday morning.
Sauschuck said every assigned patrol officer, 120 in all, have been trained to properly administer Narcan. He said the police department so far this year has responded to a couple hundred overdose calls.
The chief said he was reluctant to initiate the Narcan policy because emergency responders were already administering the drug; but said he changed his mind because more and more police officers are performing CPR on people who have overdosed.
"So when we put in these types of situations, we want to make sure our officers have the tools necessary to take care of business and again to save lives," Sauschuck said.
There were 272 drug overdose deaths in Maine last year, mainly caused by heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids. The medication will be distributed and is paid for by the Maine Attorney General's office.