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As overdose deaths rise in Sedgwick County, law enforcement officers are being equipped with Narcan

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In 2021, the county recorded more than 200 overdose deaths compared to 162 in 2020, according to the Regional Forensic Science Center.

In the past month, some Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies and Wichita Police patrol officers were equipped with Narcan – a medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose.

Law enforcement officials were outfitted with the potentially life-saving nasal spray in the past month due to an increase in overdose calls and deaths in the county that are largely attributed to fentanyl.

“This is obviously becoming a big issue in this area,” Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said.

In 2021, the county recorded more than 200 overdose deaths compared to 162 in 2020, according to the Regional Forensic Science Center.

The departments said law enforcement often is the first on scene before EMS can arrive with its own supply of Narcan – prompting officers to start using the medicine in situations where every minute counts.

“This person could have very likely died if the officer didn’t give them immediate attention, and so the faster help you can get on the way, the better,” Capt. Travis Rakestraw said recalling a recent instance where an officer used Narcan to help someone who was overdosing.

Both departments said Narcan has rarely been used because some of their employees are still being trained to use it by DCCCA, a community-service organization.

“What’s most important is that we have it in the field where the deputies that are responding to these types of calls have it available to them immediately,” Easter said.

Narcan and training on how to use the spray was made available through DCCCA for free.

Local governments and community groups have also launched a campaign aimed at educating young people and their guardians about drug use.

“We’ll never arrest ourselves out of drug use,” Easter said. “We’ve been trying to do that since the ’80s and it obviously hasn’t worked.

“We have to do education awareness and then make sure that there is enough treatment out there for those folks that want to get into treatment to get away from using drugs.”