Some New Jersey police officers will be trained to administer a drug that can quickly counteract a heroin overdose, in a pilot program Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday.
Officers in Ocean and Monmouth counties will soon be trained to carry and administer the drug naloxone, which is injected through the nose and can reverse an overdose that would otherwise likely be fatal.
"The nation's 'War on Drugs' has been a dismal failure," said Christie. "Unless we recognize and call out the failure of the system and remove the stigma of dealing with addiction for what it really is — a disease — we won't make progress."
In Ocean County, heroin deaths have more than doubled from 53 in 2012 to 112 in 2013.
Christie signed a waiver allowing first responders in New Jersey to carry and administer the antidote last week. He previously signed the Overdose Prevention Act, a measure that shields someone overdosing on drugs and those who seek medical assistance from prosecution if they act in good faith, and gives parents of drug abusers and fellow addicts access to the anti-overdose drug.
A needle exchange in Atlantic City recently began stocking the medication. Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said the drug and the materials needed to administer it cost $50.
Prosecutors from the two counties were on hand for the announcement at a fire house in Brick Township, along with private treatment providers.
Joseph Coronato, the prosecutor in Ocean County, said eight people died of overdoses in one week shortly after he was sworn in, leading him to quickly conclude the problem needed to be addressed head on.
West Long Branch Police Chief Larry Mihcom said he experienced the dangers of heroin addiction firsthand, when his son, then 22, was found comatose on the floor. Despite being close to death, the young man was given naloxone and within minutes had come to.
"'I gotta quit,'" Mihcom recalled his son saying in the ambulance, "and he did."