ALBANY - As deaths from heroin and other opiate drugs rise throughout New York, state officials are planning to equip police with an antidote to reverse the effects of overdoses.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the Community Overdose Prevention program on Thursday, saying it will let every state and local law enforcement officer carry naloxone.
They will get kits containing two syringes filled with naloxone - also marketed under the brand name Narcan - two inhalers of the drug, sterile gloves and a booklet on using them. The cost of the kit is roughly $60. Each has a shelf life of about two years.
"Putting this powerful antidote in the hands of every law-enforcement agent in the state will save countless lives," Schneiderman said.
The federal Department of Justice reports that heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent between 2006 and 2010. The New York City Department of Health said fatal heroin-related overdoses increased by 84 percent between 2010 and 2012 after four years of decline.
A 2009 New York High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report showed that heroin posed the greatest threat to upstate communities and was becoming the primary drug in the greater Albany area.
Gabriel Sayegh, director of the state Drug Policy Alliance, praised the program as "a huge step in the right direction."
"I would hope that it sparks even more action on the part of the state," Sayegh said, referring to a bill in the state Legislature that would expand access to naloxone. His organization advocates for a public health approach to drug abuse rather than relying on the criminal justice system.
Under the program, funded by $5 million of crime proceeds seized during federal and state criminal investigations, participating police departments or agencies can submit receipts for the cost of training and the kits to Schneiderman's office and get fully reimbursed.
New York will be the first state to have a universal program, according to the attorney general's office.
In 2010, the police department of Quincy, Mass., became the first department in the country to require officers to carry the drug.