Two years ago, Belfast police Chief Mike McFadden was not sure he wanted his officers to carry Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, when they go out on patrols.
It wasn’t that he opposed its use on principle. Narcan, the brand name for the drug naloxone, is one of the few tools that can reverse an opioid overdose. With Maine still in the throes of an opioid crisis — 354 people died from drug overdoses in 2018 — McFadden knows his community can use as many tools as it can get.
“But initially I was of the opinion that for us to have Narcan was redundant,” he said, adding that that was because of the close proximity of Waldo County General Hospital. “We’re so fortunate here. The ambulance responds so quickly.”
Then, in 2017, two Belfast primary care physicians came to the police station to ask him to let the officers have it, too. Dr. David Loxtercamp and Dr. Tim Hughes were persuasive, McFadden said.
“They explained about the benefit of having it,” he said. “It seemed ridiculous not to use it.”
A few days ago, that decision helped save a life, the chief said. Three of his officers responded to a 911 call from a Belfast address. Once inside, Officer Jeremy Bell, Officer Jonathan Guba and Sgt. Brian Lunt, found a disturbing scene: a man in his 30s who was lying on the bathroom floor.
“He was unresponsive, not breathing, no pulse,” McFadden said.
Officers administered Narcan, used an automated external defibrillator to jumpstart his heart and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“Before the ambulance arrived, the male was breathing and coming around,” McFadden said.
It wasn’t the first time that the officers had needed to use Narcan, of course, although he said that it does not happen as often as you might think.
“With the amount of opiate usage that we have in the area, I’m somewhat surprised we don’t use it more often,” McFadden said. “I want to acknowledge the officers’ good work. And also to say that a person is walking around today, and has opportunities, really because Dr. Loxtercamp and Dr. Hughes came in and talked to us.”