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Use naloxone to save lives, police officials urge

SANTA FE, N.M. — Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said his deputies have saved the lives of four people since May when all 27 members of his agency began carrying naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose.

“Personally, I’d like to see (naloxone) in the hands of every law enforcement officer and every detention center in the state and the nation,” Hogrefe said Monday at a news conference intended to encourage more law enforcement agencies to carry the drug.

“I look at it just like CPR,” he said. “Law enforcement have been doing CPR and saving lives for years. Naloxone does save lives.”

Hogrefe was among leaders of 13 law enforcement agencies in New Mexico who joined U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez on Monday to enlist more agencies to train their officers to use naloxone.

They joined Martinez and Dr. Joanna Katzman, director of the University of New Mexico Pain Center, at the news conference in Albuquerque to announce the naloxone project.

Martinez said his office can help local agencies obtain grant funding to train officers and provide them with naloxone.

Because New Mexico is a large, rural state, “law enforcement is often the first responder to calls,” Martinez said.

“When minutes matter and travel time for paramedics can be long, a responding officer is often in the best position to save the life of a person who is dying of an opioid overdose,” he said.

Heroin or prescription painkillers caused about 90 percent of the 540 drug overdose deaths in New Mexico in 2014. New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths per capita that year.

The project is part of the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative, which aims to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths in the state through education, prevention and law enforcement.

The initiative was formed last year by Martinez’s office and the UNM Health Sciences Center to help curb an epidemic of heroin and opioid use in New Mexico.

The announcement is one of several educational events scheduled this week to mark National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week, which began Sunday.