PORTLAND -- Police are considering carrying a potentially lifesaving drug designed to stop heroin and prescription pain killer overdoses after a dramatic reduction in overdose deaths.
Salem police plan to begin training and equipping officers with Naloxone early next year. Portland Police officers are meeting with Multnomah County Health officials about it.
"We're in the early stages of looking at it," said Sergeant Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Bureau. "What does it mean for our officers to carry it? What kind of training? Is there liability?"
Multnomah County is looking to expand training and distribution of Naloxone.
One year ago, Oregon lawmakers made it easier to put Naloxone into the hands of more people, not just doctors. Since then, the social service agency Outside In has provided training and Naloxone kits to hundreds of people, many of them drug users.
"Every day we get a report back from someone who reversed an overdose," said Haven Wheelock of Outside In.
Since Outside In started distributing Naloxone, the number of overdose deaths in Oregon has gone down. In the last six months of 2013, there were 29 heroin overdose deaths in Multnomah County. There were 52 heroin deaths for the same period in 2012. That is a 44 percent reduction.
Naloxone is delivered through an injection or nasal spray. There are no known side effects, even if it is mistakenly given to someone.
Health officials and social workers admit Naloxone is not a cure for drug abuse.
"I would say Naloxone is a Band-Aid. And sometimes you need Band-Aids. If someone dies of an overdose, they don't get a second chance to go to treatment," Wheelcok said.