NYC transit police hope to prevent heroin overdoses

New York City transit police will now be equipped with kits that officials hope will help prevent people from dying of heroin overdoses.

The initiative that will equip officers to treat overdoses is the expansion of a program spearheaded by the state’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman. At a press conference Tuesday  to announce it, Metropolitan Transit Agency Police Chief Michael Coan said while there have only been a handful of deaths among transit riders over the last 18 months, having officers trained to use the kits would be an important step toward saving lives.

“If it saves one person a year, it’s worth it,” added Andrew Friedman, deputy communications director for Schneiderman.

As part of the Community Overdose prevention program, MTA will be given $40,000 to purchase 670 naloxone kits. The $60 kits contain a zip bag or pouch with two prefilled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal administration, sterile gloves  an a booklet on the use of the drug. Naloxone is a heroin antidote that can instantly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Schneiderman said that opioid overdoses are a growing problem in New York, particularly in the suburbs. He said that in 2011, more 2,000 New Yorkers died of opioid overdoes — more than double the death toll seven years  earlier.

“We have a problem of a growing heroin epidemic,” Schneiderman said.

The MTA police force of more than 700 officers covers the New York City subway system as well as the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and the Staten Island Railway.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said officers who are part of MTA’s emergency services unit, highway unit and canine force will be the first to be trained to use the kits. Eventually, all of MTA’s officers will receive training.

Note: We have contacted Metro officials here in D.C. to see if they have plans to offer similar training to their police force.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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