This week the Atlantic City Police Department faced a dilemma that’s becoming sadly too familiar: The city of 39,000 saw six deaths from drug overdoses in the span of seven days. On Wednesday, officers responded to six overdose calls between the hours of 4:00 pm and 10:00 pm alone. Two of those overdoses were fatal. The other four people were saved, temporarily at least, by first responders who administered the opioid antagonist Narcan, which blocks opioid receptors and stops the effects on someone overdosing on heroin or heroin-related drugs like OxyContin or hydrocodone. The ACPD took the sensible step of making a public safety announcement that a “potentially bad batch” of heroin was circulating in the Atlantic City area.
The skyrocketing cost of Narcan—the lifesaving opioid antidote used to revive people in overdose—is impacting budgeting decisions for at least one South Jersey police department. Pleasantville Chief Sean Riggin said the cost of a dose of Narcan has increased between 200% and 400% for his department (depending on how you estimate), while at the same time the number of doses the city uses has spiked. “We had to put it in as a line-item in the budget this year,” he said. “Narcan is staggeringly expensive.”
Riggin sat down with Breaking AC and Route 40 yesterday at Gary’s Restaurant in Pleasantville for an interview that covered a range of topics.
“Our budget is not increasing for next year, and our Narcan cost is, so other things are going to get cut,” he said.
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The Buena Vista Township council is set to vote Monday on a resolution to support a bill in the state legislature that would prohibit doctors from prescribing more than seven-days’ worth of opioid painkillers the first time they prescribe the drug to a patient. Senate bill S-2035, introduced in April, is sponsored by Shirley Turner, Robert Gordon and Jennifer Beck. It requires that a medical practitioner “shall not issue an initial prescription for an opioid drug…in a quantity exceeding a seven-day supply.” Crazy to think, but being prescribed a month’s worth of dangerous narcotics is not an uncommon problem! You can track the bill in Trenton here.
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Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ second district, on Wednesday voted in favor of establishing an inter-agency task force to assess pain medication prescription practices. The bill, supported by representatives from both parties, will now proceed to the Senate. Opioid prescription and addiction is a huge issue in South Jersey and Route 40 hopes to follow this topic closely.