The Pacific Police Department has prevented the death of four heroin overdose victims in the past month with the new medication Narcan.
Police Chief Matt Mansell is calling for the public to be vigilant in observing the behavior of loved ones.
Mansell called the heroin epidemic a cancer that is killing vulnerable citizens.
There were nine confirmed heroin overdose deaths in Franklin County last year and five in 2017. Victims were mostly white males, but included some women.
In 2016, the ages of victims ranged from 20 to 59. In 2017, ages ranged from 30 to 39.
Without Narcan, Mansell believes there would have been more deaths in Pacific. He elected to have Pacific officers carry 4 milligrams of Narcan in September of this year.
Meramec Ambulance District Chief Chris Clifton trained Pacific officers to administer the medication. Mercy Hospital issued the product, which is paid for by the Franklin County Drug Enforcement Program.
Since officers started using the emergency medication, it has been administered four times in Pacific.
“In each case the individual survived,” Mansell said. “We could guess that without Narcan we would have four more deaths.”
The chief said he’s hard-pressed to understand how individuals could put something that they knew was dangerous in their system when their friends were dying.
“What possesses them to do this the first time?” he said. “I understand addiction, but what would cause an individual to drive into a neighborhood most of us wouldn’t feel safe in, buy something from a stranger on the street and inject it into their body — the first time?”
Mansell is no latecomer to the drug epidemic that is sweeping the nation. As a lieutenant in the Pacific Police Department in 1997 he applied for and received a grant to fund a D.A.R.E. training program. He served as the first D.A.R.E. officer in Pacific schools.
“We have D.A.R.E. officers in school teaching kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I was the first D.A.R.E. officer and here 20 years later we buried a boy last Monday who went to school with my son. He died from an overdose.”
The police chief said people who suspect a child is using heroin should be vigilant.
“Pay close attention,” he said. “Look for fresh needle marks on the arm, lethargy, change in eating or the individual is tired and sleeping a lot. Heroin is a depressant.”
In Pacific, the number of heroin overdoses skyrocketed after police were able to stem the prevalence of meth.
Mansell stressed that family members cannot cure addiction of loved ones on their own.
“You have to get professional help,” he said. “The only cases I know where there was a cure and recovery was when the user went away from the constant peer pressure and stayed away, or, if they were in jail. That’s where some users dry out.”
People who think someone in their family is in trouble should seek help, the chief said.
Pacific Alderman Carol Johnson called for this report after witnessing an overdose incident in which the officer used Narcan to revive the victim at the Motor Mart gas station and convenience store Oct. 24.
“If you see this happen you see how scary it is,” Johnson said. “Our citizens are dying from this. We need to find a way to stop it.”