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Police officers in Walsall have begun carrying a lifesaving antidote that can prevent drug overdose deaths.

West Midlands Police is using naloxone as a nasal spray that can temporarily reverse the deadly effects that can be caused by drugs like heroin, methadone, morphine and fentanyl.  It can buy time until paramedics arrive. 

West Midlands Police has been leading the way for a number of years as the first police force in the country to train officers to use naloxone.

The main life-threating effects of drugs like heroin are that they can slow down and stop breathing. Naloxone blocks this effect and reverses the breathing difficulties.

Officers in Birmingham began carrying the medicine in 2019. It can be dispensed in an emergency without prescription for the purpose of saving a life. It is easy for officers to use and has no effects on those who are not suffering an overdose, making it safe to use.

The original rollout of naloxone followed the publication of a hard hitting report from the Police and Crime Commissioner which highlighted the impact that drugs were having on the West Midlands. It revealed someone in the region dies every 3 days due to drug poisoning. The report also stated that the impact of drugs were costing the taxpayer in the region of £1.4 billion a year.

Engagement with drug treatment is known to be the most effective way of reducing harm and naloxone can both save lives and increase engagement with treatment. It is therefore considered a key part of the force’s new approach to drugs in the West Midlands.

The training for carrying and using naloxone is voluntary, but there are now 52 officers in Birmingham trained to administer the drug.

So far in Walsall, 10 officers based at Bloxwich Police Station have been trained, with at least a further 8 due to undertake their training.

The Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, has long said that this approach will not only save lives, but will save the taxpayer money. “Naloxone is a key part of the approach we’re taking to tackle drug related harm and substance misuse in the West Midlands.

“Officers carrying naloxone out on the beat was one of the key recommendations from my report and one I am proud we delivered quickly and are now expanding.

“This initiative shows the commitment of our officers that first and foremost, their duty is to protect life. By administering naloxone as a first responder to an overdose they show that they are not just there to enforce, but also to support.

 “Officers are often involved in securing scenes after fatal overdoses, sometimes for considerable amounts of time. This scheme is helping to reduce the number of overdoses, meaning that as well as saving lives, it will save the taxpayer money too and free-up resources to tackle crime.”

“I am proud that we have led the way with naloxone and other forces around the country have now followed suit.”

Now that the naloxone rollout has been extended to Walsall, in the coming months training will begin for officers in other areas of the West Midlands.

The drugs lead for West Midlands Police, Superintendent Jane Bailey said: “It’s wonderful that we now have officers in Walsall trained in the use of administering Naloxone.

“We began the initiative in Birmingham and have had officers trained for around 18 months.,

“Our ambition was always to roll it out across the force.

“It means we’re able to offer help and support to those at risk of drug overdoses in other areas too.

 “It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to reduce drug related deaths and save lives.

“And in addition, we continue to signpost people get support from our specialist drug agency colleagues to help them turn their lives around.”

Rolling out naloxone also has the backing of Public Health England and other agencies who have signed up to a shared ambition for the West Midlands to be the leading region for naloxone provision.

The training for police officers in the use of the naloxone nasal spray has been carried out by Change Grow Live. Claire James, Associate Director of Nursing for CGL said “This is a landmark development and the Change Grow Live team is proud to be partnering with West Midlands Police to provide nasal naloxone training to police officers across the region.  

“We have already seen from the initial pilot project in Birmingham that police officers trained to carry and deploy naloxone can have a life-saving impact. 

“This training, together with access to nasal naloxone across the West Midlands, will enable officers to act quickly and effectively to save lives.

“We hope this will form a blueprint for wider initiatives among police forces nationally.

“This innovative project forms part of Change Grow Live’s work across the country to prevent drug-related deaths and to ensure people struggling with drug and alcohol misuse have access to vital and evidence-based treatment services.”

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