Twenty-four Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies hit the streets Friday with a new tool they hope will save lives.
Hennepin is the first county in the state to take advantage of a law that went into effect Aug. 1 that allows law enforcement personnel and first responders to carry and administer a drug that can reverse opiate overdoses.
The brand name version of the drug is called Narcan. It also goes by the generic name naloxone. The antidote can overpower the opiates in an overdose victim's body and restart their respiratory system.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek helped push the law through the state Legislature. He said 56 people died of just heroin overdoses in Hennepin County last year.
"All of them are preventable," Stanek said. "I'm hoping by carrying Narcan out in our squad cars with the deputies, that when they get to the scene of an overdose, they'll be able to use this to save someone's life."
Deaths from opiate overdoses have continued to rise in Minnesota and across the country in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have described the level of opiate overdose deaths as an epidemic.
Stanek said he plans to continue expanding the program in Hennepin County, as well as helping law enforcement agencies in the county to train their own officers to carry Narcan. Other law enforcement departments across the state are also looking into arming officers with Narcan.