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Rohnert Park officers use naloxone to save life of overdosing man

For the second time in as many weeks, Rohnert Park Public Safety officers responded to a suspected drug overdose and saved a person’s life using a rapid reversal medication that every officer now carries.

At about 11:15 p.m. Friday, the city’s cross-trained police-fire units arrived at a Racquet Club Circle residence to find an unresponsive 22-year-old man displaying signs of an opioid overdose. Officers revived the man by administering naloxone - sometimes known by its brand name Narcan - which blocks the effects of opioids.

The incident followed a similar situation on Jan. 27 when officers were called to an apartment where a 67-year-old man was barely breathing after ingesting what was believed to be a deadly dose of heroin. In both cases, the use of naloxone restored the individual’s consciousness within minutes.

“I don’t know if it’s an anomaly,” said Rohnert Park Cmdr. Aaron Johnson. “What I can say is we’ve seen an increase in opiate-related emergencies, and since we were able to get the Narcan issued to our first responders, we’ve been to … two that were really interventions to save someone’s life.”

The Sonoma County Coroner’s Office reports 20 percent of Rohnert Park’s deaths in 2017 were related to drugs. Based on that, as well as the rising number of opioid-related deaths nationwide and increased presence of the synthetic opiate fentanyl, the city’s Department of Public Safety started a field program for naloxone last December, providing all officers with naloxone and the training to deliver it to people experiencing an overdose.

The decision makes Rohnert Park the first law enforcement agency in Sonoma County to arm its entire force with the anti-opioid medication.

The policy is designed to protect officers who could be exposed to opioids under certain scenarios as well as members of the public who experience the ill effects of the drugs, Johnson said.

The early success of the program may prompt more cities to add the life-saving tool and expand their officers’ ability to safeguard citizens, he said.

“We know that there’s the increase of opiates in Sonoma County, so we just thought, ‘Well, let’s get ahead of the curve and put this stuff on the first run engines and the patrol people,’” said Johnson.

“I think you’re going to see more agencies equipped with it as we go on.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or at kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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