- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Department of Justice is clearing way for federal police officers to carry an antidote to reverse the effects of heroin overdoses, following in the footsteps of other large metropolitan police forces such as New York City.

In a memorandum released Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder urged federal law enforcement agencies to identify, train and equip personnel who may interact with a victim of a heroin overdose with the drug naloxone.

Mr. Holder announced the federal initiative during a conference with law enforcement groups, saying he has urged federal agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives to begin the process of making the drug available to some personnel to combat the heroin epidemic.

“Although, like you, I recognize that there are numerous challenges involved in naloxone implementation — from acquisition and replenishment, to training, medical oversight and liability issues — I am confident that expanding the availability of this tool has the potential to save the lives, families, and futures of countless people across the nation,” Mr. Holder said in prepared remarks issued to law enforcement personnel.

Mr. Holder’s announcement follows public remarks in March when he advised local officers to begin carrying the drug. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to allow for greater access to naloxone.

In May, New York City announced its own $1.2 million effort, paid for with funds from the state attorney general’s office, to give thousands of kits with the anti-overdose medication to patrol officers most likely to come in contact with potential victims.

The initiative was expanded from the test grounds of Staten Island to the entire city after it proved effective in saving lives, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.

Naxloxone has been credited with 10,000 overdose reversals nationwide since 2001.

Roughly 110 Americans die each day from drug overdoses, outnumbering deaths from gunshot wounds or motor vehicle crashes, according to the most recent study from the Department of Justice. More than half of these drug overdose deaths involve opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers, and between 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths dramatically increased by 45 percent, the department said.