A sample of the NARCAN Nasal Spray medication, which combats opioid overdoses and saves lives, is pictured. The Oklahoma Sheriffs Association is outfitting all 77 counties with a supply of the drug in addition to trainings to ensure the drug is administered properly. (Provided)

You don’t have to be addicted to any form of opioid or know someone who is to be affected by opioid overdose. It can happen to anyone and touch any family, regardless of social standing. And it can be an honest mistake.

In fact, two recent instances in which a life-saving substance was used to reverse overdoses by the Logan County Sheriff’s office were each believed to be completely accidental, Sheriff Damon Devereaux said.

Devereaux explained that often people who are prescribed painkillers after an accident or a surgery can easily switch their medications up or forget they have already taken a dosage and take one too many.

But, as many of us have become aware as the opioid epidemic has swept the nation, these prescriptions can sometimes lead to dependency, which can then sometimes lead to heroin use another scenario in which overdose becomes a grave concern.

The aforementioned life-saving substance with the ability to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose is NARCAN Nasal Spray, or naloxone. The Oklahoma Sheriffs Association is outfitting every Oklahoma sheriff and their deputies with a supply of the drug in addition to trainings to ensure the drug is administered properly.

Their donation makes Oklahoma one of the only states in the country to outfit county law enforcement with the opioid counteractive agent.

‘The biggest challenge we’re facing as a nation’

Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 844 Oklahomans died of an overdose, with many Oklahoma counties exceeding the national average and more than neighboring states Arkansas and Kansas combined.

Sheriff Devereaux called it the “biggest challenge we’re facing as a nation.”

“That tells you how big the epidemic is,” said Devereaux. “When you have an organization that’s willing to put forth an exorbitant amount of money to ensure that people have it whether they can afford it or not.”

Sheriffs’ offices are facing this challenge head on and are often the first to respond to a call in rural Oklahoma. Waits for emergency medical services to arrive in rural areas can run up to half an hour or more and result in the loss of life. Now, with the OSA’s donation of NARCAN, sheriffs and deputies will have the ability to respond quickly and easily when seconds count most.

“With our county seat being in Guthrie, when we cover 750 square miles, a lot of times our deputies are the first ones on the scene, and this just gives us one more tool in our toolbox to try and save somebody’s life,” Devereaux said.

NARCAN is a part of the solution

OSA joins the fight alongside top state leaders to combat this issue facing Oklahoma’s communities, including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who has made this a focus of his office, and ODMHSAS Commissioner Terri White. Their collective leadership has led to collaborative efforts among elected officials, law enforcement, physicians and communities to defeat this crisis.

“It’s an overwhelming problem that we alone can’t eliminate,” said Pottawotamie County Sheriff Michael Booth. “Without the Sheriff’s Association providing this resource, there would be a few sheriff’s offices that would not have access to NARCAN.”

However, these kits require a nerve-racking, three-step assembly process before the antidote can be injected.

To date, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has trained more than 3,700 law enforcement officers and agents from 176 law enforcement agencies statewide and distributed over 5,000 naloxone rescue kits through their statewide prevention efforts.

Following the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of an easy to administer nasal spray version of the drug, more law enforcement agencies are keeping NARCAN on hand with the ability to reverse the effects of overdoses nearly instantaneously.

Efforts to improve the safety and health of our state is the type of leadership Oklahoma needs when dealing with the opioid epidemic. This move by OSA demonstrates their understanding of the needs of our state’s local law enforcement. Their actions benefit not just their members, but all Oklahomans.