Oakland County Sheriff: New tool helps deputies give heroin addicts 2nd chance

Sheriff says 17 lives saved in first months of program

A Narcan package
A Narcan package

PONTIAC, Mich. – In the emergency room, when someone is brought in for a heroin overdose, doctors are able to give them a drug called Narcan. It quickly reverses the effects.

Last January, Michigan passed legislation allowing law enforcement agencies to administer Narcan, too. That change is already having an impact in Oakland County.

"Just our agency alone has saved 17 lives in the past six to seven months," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

Bouchard personally pushed to put Narcan in the hands of his deputies.

"Our overdose rate in Oakland County went up 300 percent in a short period of time. That's staggering. And that's somebody's loved one," explained Bouchard. "We were first responders on a lot of those. Minutes matter, seconds count, you know, when you're talking about saving lives."

Deputy Gill Garrett was involved in one of those 17 saves.

"I went upstairs, saw him laying in the bathroom, he was slumped over. Unconscious. Eyes rolled in the back of the head," said Garrett. "He was, he was leaving us."

But Garrett had his Narcan kit.

"I was able to administer it through a nostril and basically bring him back to us," said Garrett. "Without the Narcan, I don't think we would have been able to save him in time."

The Narcan program is making a difference and not just to the people they're saving.

"That is the worst thing to tell a mother or father that their young daughter or son died from the use of a drug. That is the worst experience in this job," said Garrett.

Oakland County is also partnering with groups to help addicts seek treatment.

"A lot of people think heroin is, you know, other people. It's poor people, it's destitute, it's dangerous, it's worthless, whatever the adjective is," said Bouchard. "Heroin and drug abuse and overdose is affecting people everywhere, every community, all walks of life, every social, economic strata and it's killing people. So regardless of what demon has grabbed them, we'd like to see the opportunity for them to have a second chance of kicking that demon off their back and taking back their life."

The Oakland County Sheriff's Department is expanding its Narcan program. Thanks to donations, they are buying more kits. They're also actively helping other agencies that are interested in setting up a Narcan program of their own.

"You're giving someone else a new start. Giving someone another chance to do something different, and that's rewarding in itself," said Garrett. "It's one of the best tools I've had in my career."