Naloxone Kits Will Now be in the Hands of All First Responders in Porter County

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: June 12, 2015

An announcement was made on June 12, 2015 that will save hundreds of lives in the future in Northwest Indiana. Porter County Community Foundation, Porter Regional Hospital, Porter-Starke Services, Fagen Pharmacy and Empower Porter County came together at Porter Regional Hospital to announce the expansion of the availability of the innovative and life changing Naloxone rescue kits to all Porter County police departments.

Naloxone is a non-addictive opioid antagonist and it is used to reverse the effects of narcotic drugs overdoses that are caused by drugs like heroin, morphine, oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, codeine, and other types of prescription pain medications.

During a drug overdose the user stops breathing. Naloxone can help the user awaken and continue to breath. This allows time him or her to be transported to a medical facility for proper treatment.

And due to an amendment of Indiana’s Lifeline Law in 2014, police officers in Porter County will have access to Naloxone in times of crisis. Where the chances of saving a life from a drug overdose were once slim, they are now greater thanks to the quick thinking of the officers and the administering of this new drug.

"This is one of those times that we know that what we are doing is going to save lives and already is saving lives," Steven Lunn, CEO of Porter Regional Hospital said. "I'm thrilled that the Porter County Community Foundation has stepped in to make this initiative happen and we at Porter are happy to be part of it.”

The Community Foundation came up with the initial funding for the Naloxone kits and Jim Spanopoulos, a pharmacist at Fagen Pharmacy in Valparaiso offered to negotiate the costs to get more kits to the first responders once the initial kits were either utilized or expired.

Porter-Starke Services, an entity that treats hundreds of individuals with addiction also stepped up to help with the cause. Porter Regional Hospital will replenish supplies to officers and first responders, helping the initiative to continue.

“Naloxone works by blocking the effective receptor sites in the brain and reversing the depression of the nervous system,” Spanopoulos explained. “Time is critical for someone who has overdosed, and often an ambulance can’t get there in time. It was requested to me that each first responder vehicle get a Naloxone kit, and so I asked Jerry Fagen, owner of Fagen Pharmacy and he said he’d be happy to help. I am honored to have been a part of this initiative.”

Thanks to the Naloxone kits, six people have been given a second chance at life since January of 2015. The first to administer the drug to a person was Lisa Duncan, Portage Police Cpl.

"This is a great example of what happens when there are visions and problems on the table and people come together to find good solutions," Barb Young, President of the Porter County Community Foundation said. "We were able to use the resources that we have from our Health and Wellness Fund to attack something like substance abuse; it is a very wise investment of those funds.”

Porter County has a severe issue with heroin addiction, one of the worst cases in Indiana. Three years ago, various municipalities came together to create Empower Porter County to address this stressing issue.

“This new initiative with Naloxone is what Empower Porter County is all about. We work toward the goal of reducing substance abuse,” Heather Harrigan Hitz, Executive Director of Empower Porter County said. “It’s wonderful to see all of these entities come together to work toward a common goal of saving lives and bettering our communities.

“This initiative was really spearheaded by the Portage Fire Department. I’m very happy to see the number of successes that we have had so far,” David Cummins, MD and EMS Medical Director for Porter Regional Hospital said. “The Naloxone is given via a mist that is shot in through the nose. It’s quickly absorbed and the person overdosing goes from not breathing to wide awake in a matter of minutes.”

The officers will be trained on how to properly give Naloxone to individuals who are suffering from an opioid overdose by Dan Kodicek, Assistant Chief of EMS of the Portage Fire Department. He and Troy Williams, Portage Chief of Police, were both instrumental in getting the initiative started. When the idea to get the Naloxone kits to the police department came about, it wasn’t even legal to do so, but after the aforementioned law amendments and pushing by Williams things were in motion. Kodicek was the one to put the first kit together and give one to each shift supervisor for the police department. This great idea is now a reality all across Porter County.

Kodicek has since been contacted by other counties and asked to provide training to police officers and first responders in different locations in Indiana, so the word is spreading and more lives can be saved.