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EDITORIAL: After Narcan ... then what?

York Dispatch

Forty people have been saved from overdosing on drugs this year in York County by police officers administering naloxone.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Forty people. Forty people who took so much heroin or opioid pain killers that they nearly died.

But they didn't because officers got there in time and had naloxone, aka Narcan, which counteracts the affects of the drugs and allows the person to breathe again.

You'd think coming so close to death would give the person who's been saved pause.

But that's not what happens, police chiefs said during a hearing held by Rural Pennsylvania last week.

"I can tell you, very few (people) are thrilled to open their eyes to see a police officer or an EMT standing over them," Chief James Laughlin of Penn Township Police said. "If you think they are looking in the mirror and turning their life around, that's not happening."

What is happening is that the person is taken to the hospital for initial treatment, and they're given information about getting further treatment. And then they're discharged.

That's it. No follow-ups, no mandatory rechecks, no counseling. Just information, then back to the streets.

That's been the protocol under the good Samaritan provision of the 2014 law that allowed police to carry and administer Narcan. Those who have overdosed and those who report an overdose are immune from prosecution.

That's supposed to encourage drug users to call 911 if they're with a person who's OD'ing, and it's helping, according to York County chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday. In fact, Sunday thinks more needs to be said about immunity so no one is afraid to call if a friend is in trouble.

And that's true: There shouldn't be a penalty if you call for help when you're with someone who could die.

At the same time, it seems like there should be something more done for the person who has actually overdosed, possibly something in the lines of the drug treatment court, where drug users who commit crimes have to go through several stages of treatment, counseling and rehab.

Surely someone who has just been revived after overdosing on heroin realizes the dangers involved in continuing to take the drug. But addicts need help, and heroin is a particularly nasty drug to detox from.

Leaders talk about getting more information to the users and changing treatment methods.

Possibly the best treatment is being held accountable for your actions and knowing that the next time, you might not get that second (or third or fourth) chance to open your eyes.

Forty people have been revived with Narcan this year in York County. At least 21 people have died from an overdose.

Surely there's a way to decrease both of those numbers.