HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Local police officers are training to learn how to effectively use the life-saving drug Narcan to help people who have overdosed.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, an officer having Narcan on them is a matter of life and death for people because a police officer is the first to the scene and every minute counts.
"Horry County is at the top of the list right now for opiate deaths," said Greenville County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Ward.
Wednesday, it was standing-room only for the Law Enforcement Officer Naloxone training program. Participating were officers from each agency across Horry and Georgetown counties.
"By giving this medication, what we are doing, we are giving these folks a second chance they otherwise would not have," said Arnold Alier, the state director of EMS for DHEC.
Ward said the overdoses they are seeing are accidental, as opposed to intentional.
"And we are going to try to treat them the same as everyone else," he said.
Alier said because every minute counts, it's important to look at who can be first on scene.
"Most of these folks begin to die three to five minutes after they stop breathing, because oxygen doesn't get to the brain," he said.
Since police officers are often on the road already, Alier said it's those officers who can be on scene in time to save the most lives.
During the first training session, the group learned exactly what to look for and why not everybody would be a candidate for the drug.
"We're not going to ask them to administer narcan to someone who is not at death's doorstep. The subject will be barely breathing, if at all, and they will basically be dying right in front of them," Ward said.
From here, the participating officers will take what they've learned to their colleagues and start their own narcan training. The hope is every local officer is comfortable using the life-saving drug.
"It puts them in a different setting. Officers did not sign up to be EMTs, they signed up to protect and to serve. This gives them another tool to serve," Alier said.