The Transylvania Times -

Opioid Response Team Putting Life-Saving Medicine In Hands Of Law Enforcement


Last updated 5/4/2020 at 2:04pm

When it comes to addressing the opioid crisis, teamwork and cross-sector collaboration are required for achieving results, according to a press release from Transylvania Public Health.

The Transylvania Opioid Response Team, a subcommittee of the C.A.R.E. Coalition, has worked among several departments and regional organizations to put life-saving medication in the hands of law enforcement.

Opiates – which include medications prescribed for pain, medication-assisted treatment and illicit drugs like heroin – slow down and can stop a person’s breathing.

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose if given soon enough.

In 2014, the C.A.R.E. Coalition received a small grant to supply naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, for every law enforcement vehicle in the county. However, over the past few years, the naloxone kits that were not used eventually expired and could no longer be used. Without grant funds, replacing the expired kits was impossible.

“There are lots of grants out there for addressing substance abuse,” said Kristen Gentry, C.A.R.E.’s program director. “But very few grants allow you to purchase naloxone. Most of them only allow you to promote naloxone, so you must rely on other sources to actually acquire the kits.”

In the event of an overdose, seconds matter. In a rural area like Transylvania County, it is important that the closest emergency vehicle is able to respond to an overdose until EMS arrives.

Elaine Russell, the Transylvania Public Health director and a member of the response team, reached out to Vaya Health for help. Vaya Health supplied 80 naloxone kits for restocking law enforcement and first responder vehicles.

“Transylvania County EMS, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard Police Department and the majority of the Transylvania County fire and rescue departments carry naloxone,” said Kim Bailey, director of Transylvania County EMS. “The distribution of naloxone to various Emergency Services Agencies helps to ensure timely delivery of naloxone in opioid overdose situations. Transylvania County is extremely fortunate to have a committed and compassionate group of first responder personnel, both paid and volunteer.”

The Opioid Response Team has worked together to make sure that each participating agency has been trained in naloxone administration. EMS provides the training free of charge to the responders. After training, a law enforcement agency representative picks up naloxone for their agency vehicles from Transylvania Public Health, where the kits are currently being stored.

To date, law enforcement in Transylvania County has administered naloxone on five separate occasions. Local fire and rescue departments have administered naloxone on seven separate occasions.

Statewide, only one in 10 overdose reversals are done by law enforcement. The majority of overdose reversals are administered by regular citizens – people who keep naloxone in their home and have it close by. North Carolina has a standing order for naloxone, so people can walk into a pharmacy and request it without a prescription. Many insurance companies cover the cost, and it is only $3 for Medicaid recipients.

If you or someone you love takes opiates – whether prescribed or illegal – you should get a naloxone kit and read the instructions to understand how to use it. The symptoms of an overdose include very slow or no breathing, blue/purple lips or fingernails, limp body, vomiting or gurgling, and will not wake up or respond. If you see signs of an overdose, call 911 right away and give the person naloxone.

Increasing access to naloxone saves lives and communicates to people who use drugs that their lives are important too.

“We want people with opioid use disorder to survive their overdose so they can get the help they need and recover from this disease,” Gentry said.

“It is important to me that we have a coordinated response for people who are suffering from opioid use disorder,” said Transylvania County Commissioner David Guice. “These are people’s children, brothers, sisters and parents. Equipping our first responder vehicles with life-saving medication is the first step in that.”

Updating the naloxone kits in law enforcement vehicles is the first step of many in the Opioid Response Team’s efforts to address substance abuse in Transylvania County. In the future, the team will be working on expanding resources and treatment options to people impacted by substance abuse.

For more information, call (828) 884-1750 or visit


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