CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Police from 30 suburban departments in Cook County are going to soon be trained and equipped with Narcan to try to save the lives of people overdosing on opioids.
Under a new program with Loyola University Medical Center, 1,900 suburban police officers in Cook County will be trained to use and will be equipped with two doses of Narcan nasal spray to counter the effects of heroin-related drugs since police are most often first on-the-scene.
Loyola University Medical Center is providing the training to officers.
"The risk to society of delaying immediate care for these patients is great. Patient need antidote now, not in two minutes when an ambulance arrives," said Loyola's chairman of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Mark Cichon.
"It's incumbent on us to do what we can to save as many people as we can."
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said there were more than 1,000 opioid-related deaths in the county last year.
"That's three times more than the number of fatalities caused by car accidents in the county and more than the number of murders," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle said the Cook County Health and Hospital System saw 5,000 opioid-related emergency room visits in 2016, which is up from 1,000 visits in 2006.
"It's our responsibility to work together to find solutions to a public health crisis that is killing our residents at breakneck speed," she said.
Bellwood's Acting Police Chief Jiminez Allen knows the value in such a program. He okayed a Narcan program for his officers on November 21 of last year, and on "November the 22nd, our officers got fitted with the nasal spray and they went on the street and saved two lives."
The program is paid for with a $311,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.
Twenty-two officers from various departments were trained in Maywood on Thursday.
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