Buffalo Police officers are now trained to carry Narcan, a temporary antidote for drug overdoses.
The drug, administered by nasal spray, delays the effects of an opioid for up to 90 minutes, allowing a person who is overdosing to get treatment at a hospital.
Distribution of Narcan began Friday and the entire patrol force should be trained within the next month or two, according to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda.
"We will train our officers. We will supply them and it will be up to them to use them. I believe most will, if not all," said Derenda.
Derenda says the drug could save lives in cases of heroin and prescription drug overdoses, which have become increasingly common according to recent statistics.
"If they're out and can't breathe, it will start them breathing again. It will bring them back," Derenda says.
Mayor Bryon Brown says using Narcan is a matter of public safety.
"Minutes make a difference,” said Brown, in a statement. “There’s another side to public safety and there’s another side to law enforcement and that’s the potential to save lives. Those who overdose are somebody’s child and somebody’s family member. This new anti-crime effort is a matter of public safety. If we can save one life, this program was worth it.”
Avi Israel of Buffalo has been fighting for city officers to use Narcan. Israel lost his son, who was addicted to prescription drugs.
"These are all young people who, one way or another, whether it is through doctors or whatever it is, get hooked on opiates and that leads to heroin. These kids are dying," said Israel recently.
Narcan is being supplied by the state and Erie County at no cost to the city police department. So far, 48 Buffalo police officers have been trained to use the antidote.