Officers use heroin overdose prevention tool on the streets of Virginia Beach

Posted at 11:11 AM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 17:34:20-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The heroin epidemic is out of control and cities across Hampton Roads. People dying at an alarming rate.

The Virginia Beach Police Department took action by getting devices that officers can use on the scene to revive people that are overdosing.

Three officers sat down with NewsChannel 3 Friday and share their experiences of using Narcan.

They got the Narcan devices back in February and were one of the first agencies in the state.

Virginia Beach Police Officer Michael Koch was the first officer to deploy the device in the city on someone overdosing on heroin.

"We're helping people with it on a regular basis and if it's an opportunity to help people and to save lives, that's our goal," said Koch.

The goal is to save more lives especially as the heroin epidemic kills more people.

In Virginia in 2014 more people died for the first time of heroin overdose is in car crashes, according to the Virginia Attorney General.

In Virginia Beach the number of people that died of heroin overdoses tripled from 2014 to 2015.

Officer Mitchell Mengel with Virginia Beach Police Department said, "They are alarming numbers for sure and I think looking at this as more of an addiction and illness rather than a criminal nature kind of puts it in perspective."

Officer Mengel has used the device on two different people.

Officer Christopher Jenkins with Virginia Beach Police Department deployed a Narcan device when he was called to a scene where a man was overdosing.
He said, "Within about three minutes he was standing up talking like nothing ever happened. That's the first time I'd seen it or used it and I was very impressed by it."

The three officers experienced different situations but each one of them says they are glad that they now have this new device that can be used to save lives.

"It's exciting because were here to save people and with this opportunity we can," said Jenkins.

Virginia Beach Police Sgt. Colin Elliot said, “If we can save one life, then it’s worth it.”

The hope of saving more lives is why Virginia Beach Police got 50 of the new devices, which have Naloxone inside, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Police say there’s a need for the devices.

Virginia Beach Police Captain Theresa Orr said, “absolutely, because of the rising number of people that are struggling with it and that have died.”

In Virginia Beach alone, police say they had 135 heroin overdoses in 2015. Thirty-five of those people died.

So far in 2016, 36 people have overdosed and six people died.

Police say the statistics only include the calls that involved police.

“There’s an epidemic in this country and we’re trying to do our part to save lives to make a difference. I think this will help and will make a difference,” said Sgt. Elliot.

Leaders with the police department admit that having the devices will be a new challenge for officers.

“It does take us out of our role because typically when we respond to the scene where there are felony narcotics, we are in the law-enforcement role but officers are very cognizant of the fact that our primary mission is to preserve life,” said Captain Orr.

Virginia Beach Police said they are one of the only police agencies in the state training all of their officers.

They department hopes to get 100 more devices in the next few weeks.

Virginia Beach Police say they received grant money from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to help cover the cost for the devices. They say the department paid $2,300 for the first 50 devices.

Governor McAuliffe created a Task Force in September of 2014. Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera joined the Task Force in November of 2014.

“He knows the problem, he sees the problem out there, he sees people dying and he wants to do something to try to combat that in our city,” said Sgt. Elliot.