PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Advocates fighting to equip Phoenix Police patrol officers with the overdose-reversal drug, Narcan, received mixed messages Wednesday when they were pointed to the Phoenix City Council for assistance.
Advocates have been contacting members of the Phoenix Police Department and state officials including the Governor’s office since Arizona’s Family aired a report revealing Phoenix Police provide Narcan to a limited number of officers.
Phoenix Police say employees with their drug enforcement, K9, transit, bomb squad and the airport units carry naloxone.
Janice Morrison, who has a son that survived an overdose thanks to Narcan, is one of the advocates asking Phoenix police to make Narcan available to all officers. She received a discouraging response Wednesday from Phoenix police.
[RELATED: 13 ways to talk to your kids about Fentanyl]
“That they were not the ones that could do anything,” says Morrison.
The email pointed her to the City Council.
Arizona’s Family reached out to mayor and Council, asking them if they would support equipping patrol officers with Narcan.
“This is something we would absolutely approve of,” says Sam Stone, chief of staff for Councilman Sal DiCiccio. “The police department decides what their needs are and brings those to Council for approval, basically for an up or down vote. We haven’t had that yet.”
Councilwoman Debra Stark also said she would support supplying more officers with the life-saving medicine if the issue was brought before the Council.
By Wednesday afternoon, Phoenix police issued a clarification saying the Council does not have to take action on the matter. The statement says the department is considering applying for a grant to obtain more Narcan kits, but the medication would not be used on citizens. Instead, the “intended use” would be for treating City employees in cases of accidental exposure.
“To not carry it is to just not be aware of human life at all,” says Shelby Bean.
She survived an overdose a year ago after a friend treated her with Narcan.
“I woke up and I didn’t know what had happened,” says Bean. “He said I thought you were gone.”
After the incident, Bean got into recovery and has been clean for nearly eight months.
Advocates say they will continue to press all Valley police departments to carry Narcan to save lives.
“It’s one of the easiest pieces to the puzzle to solving the epidemic,” says Morrison.
The Phoenix Police Foundation provides funds for unmet capital needs through a grant application process. President Timothy Thomas says the board of directors is open to proposals that can help save lives. He says providing resources to the police department is made possible through individual donors and corporate partners.
[TIMELINE: Emergence of the opioid crisis]
The Arizona Department of Health Services also provides naloxone kits to law enforcement through a couple of grant sources. A spokesman was not immediately certain if the grant opportunities could facilitate the number of kits needed to make naloxone available to all Phoenix Police officers. He said he would follow up with more information.
[SPECIAL SECTION: The Fentanyl Crisis]
Phoenix Police has nearly 3,000 sworn officers and up to 1,500 of them are patrol officers.
Full statement from Phoenix Police Department:
“The Phoenix Police Department currently equips a limited number of employees with an opiate antagonist. These employees are within the Drug Enforcement Bureau, K-9, Transit, bomb squad, and airport bureau. The next step in expanding the program to all of Patrol, for its intended use on employees, would be to apply for a grant from the Phoenix Police Foundation. This is within the ability of the police department and would not need council approval. Until such time, officers encountering suspected overdose victims would continue to implement life-saving measures as trained and call for immediate assistance from the Phoenix Fire Department.”