South Mississippi law enforcement combating opioid crisis

South Mississippi law enforcement combating opioid crisis

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Moss Point Police Detective Kimberlee Snowden has seen a lot of overdoses in her career of 20-plus years.

"It's a horrible thing to deal with," she said. "You feel helpless when you arrive on the scene. You're waiting on your medical personnel to arrive and be able to assist you."

The opioid-blocking drug Narcan may change things in a big way.

"We have a lot of overdoses with opiate, narcotics drugs and hopefully this will be or enable us to save lives," Snowden said.

Adam Carter of the Ocean Springs Police Department has seen his share of overdose deaths as well. One case involved the highly potent opioid Fentanyl, which requires a quick response time.

"You get there and, I mean, at that level, there's really not much you can do unless you have the proper medicine at that time to treat it," Carter.

The Mississippi Department of Mental Health is having training and dosage distributions throughout the state thanks to a $3.6 million grant, but early priority is on the crisis areas - particularly the Coast. The training is designed to protect first responders as well.

"Should they accidentally come in contact, we have had law enforcement officers accidentally go into overdose," said Michael Jordan, the state opioid treatment authority for the Department of Mental Health. "So, not only is it for the individual who is suffering from the disease, it could be protecting those lives that matter, the blue lives that matter."

According to Circuit Court Judge Dale Harkey, it's now a necessary part of the whole law enforcement system.

"There's arrests, apprehension, prosecution of crimes, but there's also treatment components for addiction that we need to follow now, and this is part of that. This is a reaction to real-life situations with people losing their lives," says Harkey.

Jackson County is the second leading county in the state in opioid overdose deaths with 96 in 2016 and Harrison County is at number 1 with 134 deaths.

The Department of Mental Health will have training for officers in Harrison County in October.

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