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West Memphis Police getting Narcan for patrol officers

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- West Memphis Police announced they will provide their 20 patrol officers with Narcan, a drug that reverses the deadly effects of heroin overdoses.

“At four deaths this year with either pure fentanyl or heroin-fentanyl mixture, we’re up 400 percent in deaths from last year,” Capt. Joe Baker said of the increase from zero recorded heroin overdoses in 2016.

Officers said they were shocked when they found out what they were dealing with in one of their recent cases.

“We had a suspected heroin overdose, but when got drugs back from the lab it was pure fentanyl,” Baker said.

That can be a death sentence for some who get hooked.

“When they think they’re getting their normal amount of heroin and it’s just a teeny bit of fentanyl, and then it hits you like that. A lot of them sadly still have the needle in their arm," said Kristina Wilmoth with Wings of Hope.

It prompted West Memphis Police to take action; patrol officers start training next week to administer Narcan.

“Our concern is the scenes we get to before paramedics arrive. There are a lot of statistics that show the earlier you can administer the Narcan, the higher the survival rate is,” Baker said.

Officers said it's also necessary for them to protect themselves when on the road responding to calls, especially after a recent scare.

“It has a super high inhalation risk for officers. Fentanyl is also transdermally taken in. So if officers handle the fentanyl or handle the packaging, if they're not wearing gloves, they can have a risk of transdermal overdose," Baker said.

WMPD spent around $2,000 to outfit around 20 patrol officers, officials said. They hoped to have all officers trained and using the product by August 15.

Memphis Police do not outfit patrol officers with Narcan, but Baker said the special drug unit has it on hand.

Baker also said other agencies including the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office and Marion Police had contacted them for information regarding purchasing for their officers.