SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake County District Attorney and County Sheriff announced Wednesday they are one step closer to arming Unified Police Department Officers with a tool to combat overdoses.
If the plan comes to fruition, it will be funded by money seized from criminal activity.
County leaders met Tuesday to discuss the alarming number of heroin and opioid pain pill related deaths in Utah, calling the issue a public health crisis in the state and particularly in Salt Lake County.
Wednesday, DA Sim Gill and County Sheriff Jim Winder said they are working to put naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in every UPD patrol car.
“To me there is no legitimate reason not to have this substance in every single police car and even more widely spread,” Sheriff Winder said.
The plan was hatched almost casually during Tuesday’s summit.
“He and I both share a common thing, which is, we are there to serve and protect, but we are also there to be innovative and change and make the kind of progressive changes that are necessary to have better outcomes for our community,” Gill said.
At one point, the DA asked Sheriff Winder how many patrol cars UPD has. Sheriff Winder replied, saying about 200, and the DA said he would move asset forfeitures, which are cash and property seized in criminal cases, and divert that into the money needed to purchase the naloxone kits.
“So we are taking monies from potential criminals and reinvesting them back in a positive way into our community,” Gill said.
The drug has proven to be extremely effective at reviving individuals who have overdosed either on heroin or opiate-based pain pills. And, because police are often the first to arrive at the scene of an overdose, both sides felt it made perfect sense.
“No mother, no father, no brother ever wants to see their loved one die,” Winder said. “And what we're talking about here is maintaining people alive. We can deal with a lot of other issues, but once they're gone, they're gone, and this substance literally keeps them here."
It’s estimated that outfitting 200 vehicles with naloxone kits would cost between $8,000 and $10,000, and while the plan is in motion, it’s not a done deal at this time.
Gill said he needs approval from the Salt Lake County Council, but since they are the ones that hosted the opioid summit, he said he believes they will see the wisdom of this and will help appropriate the funds to make it happen.
The issue will be discussed in the regularly scheduled Salt Lake County Council meeting set for next Tuesday, and, if all goes according to plan, UPD officers should have these naloxone kits available to them by the end of the year.