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Sullivan County sheriff hopes Narcan will save citizens, officers

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An Ohio sheriff is making national headlines after announcing he will not allow his deputies to carry the anti-overdose drug, Narcan.

The sheriff said the risks outweigh the benefits, and people who are overdosing on drugs are using up his department's resources.

Law enforcement agencies here are taking a different approach. The Sullivan County sheriff's department is the latest of several in our area to start carrying the life-saving drug.

Sheriff Wayne Anderson said he's been trying to get Narcan for his department for the past year. Finally, thanks to a grant, he has enough to equip all of his deputies, along with officers and nurses in the jail.

His department isn't the only one stocking up. The county's anti-drug coalition is kicking off its own efforts.

The Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition focuses on education and prevention. But thanks to a $133,000 state grant, they're tackling the opioid epidemic from a different angle.

"The grant is very unusual for us, this is a harm reduction grant," coalition director Alice McCaffrey said. "But once someone is dead, you can't help them recover."

With the funds, the coalition will hire a nurse to train and distribute Narcan over the next year.

"Our first target is first responders, law enforcement," she said. "We want to make sure that if you're the first one to the scene, you have what you need to save a life."

So McCaffrey is happy to hear the sheriff's department is already on it.

"Absolutely thrilled - this will save lives. It will just save lives," McCaffrey said.

Sheriff Anderson said all of his deputies were trained to use the nasal spray, earlier this year. So now it's just a matter of getting it in their hands and on the streets.

"So many people are dying from opioids - it's terrible," the sheriff said.

In Sullivan County, 35 people died of a drug overdose in 2013. In 2014, that number jumped to 44. And in 2015, there were 35 deaths.

And Sheriff Anderson said officers are even in danger of accidental overdoses because of a new street drug called Carfentanil. It can kill people who simply touch it.

"It can go through your pores, in your skin," the sheriff said.

So Sheriff Anderson hopes Narcan will keep his deputies safe as well.

"It's not only for the people out here who might be having an overdose, but for our officers who might overdose because they touched it," Anderson said.

The sheriff's department has 108 units of Narcan because of that grant through Blue Cross, Blue Shield. The kits will be handed out to deputies this week.

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