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Arcata Police administer Narcan in response to heroin overdose

ARCATA - A death from overdosing on heroin is prevented by quick action taken by Arcata Police. However officials say this is just one incident that adds to the growing concern of overdoses in Humboldt County.

Sunday evening the Arcata Police Department responded to the Arcata Marsh Parking Lot on South G Street. Officers located a 29-year-old man who was unconscious and displaying symptoms of a heroin overdose.

"They started rescue breathing and deployed Narcan and saw an immediate positive effect. It really helped them help this person until the ambulance could get there,” said Todd Dokweiler, APD Detective Sergeant. 

The man was transported to Mad River Community Hospital and is in stable condition.  

Arcata Police deployed Narcan nasal spray earlier this year which is used to treat an opioid overdose in an emergency situation. It blocks or reverses the effects of opioids, including slowed breathing and loss of consciousness.

Dokweiler says “In cases like this minutes or even seconds can make the difference between someone surviving that or not."

Law enforcement is usually the first responder in emergency calls. Dokweiler says that’s why it’s so important for them to carry the antidote.

"In the past unfortunately too often the officers would arrive at these scenes and there was really not a whole lot they could do until the ambulance got there. So this bridged that time gap."

Arcata Police are involved with the Rx Safe Humboldt Coalition, which is working to address the opioid and opiate overdose epidemic.

"It was a really natural thing, they reached out to us and said they were interested in carrying Narcan and could we provide training? And we were very happy that they did," said Alison Newman, DHHS Senior Health Education Specialist. 

The Department of Health and Human Services provides Narcan to APD. They say if more law enforcement is interested in carrying it, they would provide.

Even though this is the first time the police department has administered Narcan since getting it. Sergeant Dokweiler says heroin overdoses are common in the city.

"We go to heroin overdoses sometime two or three times a week at varying levels.  In some cases when we respond to these calls the person has been found deceased and other cases they're in the earlier stages, Dokweiler said.

But Arcata is not alone, the entire county of Humboldt if suffering the impacts of opioids, both prescriptions and heroin.

"We do have overdose deaths much higher than the rest of the state. Humboldt County has an opiate opioid overdose death rate 3.5 times the state average and a non-fatal hospitalization rate about 5.5 times the state average," said Newman.

The Department of Health aims to lower the rate by offering Narcan training and kits to concerned citizens.

By: Sierra Jenkins