PCC announces roll-out of life-saving overdose drug to community mentors as UK marks national campaign.

August 31, 2023

Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has praised the rapid introduction of an overdose drug across County Durham and Darlington that is saving lives.

As we mark International Overdose Awareness Day, the PCC announced plans to train her cohort of Community Peer Mentors to administer naloxone – a medication that temporarily reverses the effect of an overdose from heroin and other opiates or opioids and restores normal breathing.

The partnership project, by Public Health at Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council, HumanKind and We Are With You, is being delivered by the two councils drugs services.

Durham Constabulary was one of the first forces in the country to provide naloxone kits to its officers. More than 200 officers now carry one of the kids in their pocket, bag, or body armour.

Since the start of 2023, the force has bolstered the rollout programme again, enabling any member of staff who wants to carry a naloxone kit while on duty to be trained.  

To date, 400 members of staff have received full training to administer the drug and it has been used successfully on 43 occasions – 11 times in 2023 alone.

The project aims to maximise a system-wide, harm reduction approach, supported by the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service who administer naloxone to clients and their families, safe accommodation providers and other support services.

Last month, an officer on patrol in Durham City Centre was approached by a member of the public who informed them a friend nearby was unresponsive due to an overdose. The officer was equipped with naloxone – the Nyxoid nasal spray version – and administered it quickly. The medication worked as expected and the man was taken to hospital.

In a ground-breaking move, the Commissioner has now backed plans to train Community Peer Mentors across the county to administer the drug to further prevent overdose related deaths.

Community Peer Mentors are volunteers, many of whom have lived experience of issues such as homelessness, domestic abuse and addiction, who provide practical and emotional support to people at the height of crisis.  

The award-winning scheme is funded by the PCC and provides support to vulnerable or isolated people including victims or perpetrators of crimes and those living in the grip of alcohol or drug addiction.  

Commissioner Allen said: “Naloxone is now administered routinely by officers and staff across the force and has no doubt saved lives. Increasing its availability through properly trained community workers has always been a key priority for me and I am proud to be expanding its rollout via our Community Peer Mentors scheme.

“By the nature of their work with recovering drug-users, CPMs are potentially the first to encounter an overdose emergency. It makes perfect sense to arm them with the knowledge and training they need to administer this drug successfully and potentially save lives.

“I am pleased to be pioneering the wider roll out of naloxone to the right people across our communities. Every opiate death is a preventable death. The more people that carry naloxone, the more lives we will ultimately save. Naloxone is often the first step to securing people the treatment and support they need to live a life free of drug dependency.”

Durham Constabulary has been using naloxone in its custody suites since 2019. During the Covid pandemic, the force provided kits to trained officers and staff throughout the county.  

The drug can be administered via a spray or a syringe. During an opiate overdose, breathing dramatically slows down and can stop altogether with fatal consequences. Naloxone reverses the process by removing opiates from the brain receptors, allowing breathing to recover.

Although the effect is only temporary, potentially lasting 10-15 minutes, multiple doses can be safely given. The force uses both Nyxoid and Prenoxad versions of the drug.

The drug has been administered in a variety of situations including in custody suites and police station receptions through to people’s homes and in public spaces. In one case, a young woman brought her friend who was experiencing an overdose to the front reception of a police station. Officers administered a Prenoxad kit immediately and the woman came round. She was taken to hospital.

Jim Cunningham, Community Peer Mentor Manager, said: “The force is continually looking at how it can expand the availability of naloxone to save even more lives from drug overdose and the additional training and kits being provided to Community Peer Mentors is a huge step forward.

“There are numerous examples of cases locally where deaths have been prevented through the administration of this medicine. It’s simple: naloxone saves lives, naloxone is safe, simple and easy to administer and using naloxone is part of our daily business.”

Jason Meecham, Custody Project Lead for Durham Constabulary, vouched for the benefits of a wider roll out of drug. “The news that our Community Peer Mentors are now trained to use and are carrying Naloxone is fantastic. Naloxone is safe, simple, easy to administer, and it works.

“Having led the introduction of naloxone into our force I know how well it has been received and how effective it has been for colleagues who have repeatedly used it to save life. Naloxone saves lives.”

The force has implemented robust monitoring processes to scrutinise the effectiveness of the rollout and to maximise future use of the life-saving drug.

All staff are required to provide an update when they have used the kits so that it can be replaced and to enable senior officers to collate data on its use and effectiveness.

The force also reviews the administration of naloxone via bodycam and CCTV where available to identify opportunities for further training.

International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is the largest annual campaign to end overdose. The event is aimed at remembering those who have lost their lives to overdose and acknowledging the grief of the friends and family left behind.

If you need help or want to find out more, contact the Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service on 03000 266 666.

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