By Cristal Corrales and Melissa Barraza
In April 2017, New Mexico became the first state to require all local and state law enforcement officers to carry Narcan or Naloxone, an opioid antidote that can reverse the effects of an overdose. Governor Susana Martinez signed the legislation that was approved unanimously.
Until now, the Las Cruces Fire Department has been dealing with most of the overdose cases in the city. According to departmental records, LCFD received close to 1,700 calls, mostly medical calls, last year. Of those, around 100 were due to overdoses, said Batallion Chief Shane Mouchette.
Since January of this year, the number of calls involving an overdose is already 95 and it might increase as the end of the year approaches. Mouchette said the fire department keeps a record of overdose cases, and over time they realized they were often going to the same residences to find the same people had overdosed.
“Often it’s the same people and every year the numbers increase,” said Mouchette.
The Las Cruces Police Department will start training on the right use of Naloxone in November.
“Police officers are the first ones to get [to the scene] before the fire department. They go in to check the area and make sure it is safe for firefighters to go in,” said Dan Trujillo, Las Cruces Police Department public information officer. “All law enforcement will now carry the nasal Narcan in their units in case of an overdose emergency.”
The signs or symptoms to identify if a person has overdosed are lack of breathing, dilated pupils, loss of balance, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and seizures. Narcan does not have a negative effect if it is administered to a person who has not overdosed.
The city of Las Cruces and the fire department are working on efforts to reduce the number of overdoses. Mobile Integrated Health is a new program that started in July of this year aimed at reducing the number of overdose-related calls they receive to the same residences.
“The new program requires to spend time and talk to that person and influence them to stop introducing the drug, instead of going over and over to the same calls,” Mouchette said.
This program also allows for family members to be certified to administer Naloxone.
This article is part of the series titled The Opioid Epidemic in America. To read more stories in the series, click on the links below:
Collegiate athletes especially vulnerable to opioid addiction
A small town of 10,000 struggles with the opioid crisis
In New Mexico, opioid addiction does not discriminate
N.M. officials, activists, leaders unified to fight opioid addiction