On June 7, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval joined with four other bipartisan state governors in signing a letter asking for federal support for state- and local-level initiatives to address the nationwide opioid crisis.
As reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the letter was addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA).
Along with Sandoval, the letter was also signed by Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT), Charlie Backer (R-MA), and Kate Brown (D-OR).
The governors expressed support for nine health-care-related bills introduced in the House, including the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act, which would mandate follow-up care for patients admitted to emergency rooms for an overdose, and the Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases Act of 2018, which would expand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s injection drug use infection surveillance program.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee commented that he strongly favors what the governors are seeking.
“We might not have a high rate of opioid abuse in the county, but it can and does happen. It’s nothing like it is in the midwest, but we are seeing the effects of it in Nevada to some degree. Attorney General Adam Laxalt has been working on it as well. Nationwide, it is nothing short of an epidemic. It seems like every meeting or training I go to, they talk about it. Lincoln County just hasn’t seen a large influx of these things yet.”
Nevertheless, he noted, “It has gotten to the point where all my sheriff’s patrol officers, probably starting in the next week or so, will be issued NARCAN.”
NARCAN® (naloxone HCl) nasal spray is the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. It counteracts the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.
Lee said, “We are going to be issuing these items to first responders to be given to a suspected opioid overdose patient, whether heroin, prescription opioid, or whatever. I think this might also be recommended for EMS personnel also.”
He said the patient will still have to be taken to the hospital. “Sometimes a person on an overdose can go into respiratory failure, stop breathing, and die.”
He referenced a case in early May, involving a northbound truck driver on Highway 93, near Pioche, who overdosed on prescription opioids and died on the side of the road.
“This was not reported in the press at the time,” he said, “because we couldn’t confirm that it was an opioid overdose, but the subsequent autopsy showed that it was. It was first reported as an overdue freight truck and NHP later located him on the road. We conducted a coroner’s investigation.”
Lee said he thought the letter asking for federal support for state- and local- level initiatives would mean helping cover the expense the opioid epidemic could potentially be. “Back in the Midwest, where these things happen on a daily basis in small counties, it could literally break the budget. If autopsies would be done on everyone, the expense incurred would be overwhelming. If Lincoln County had even a few of those every month, we would blow through our budget.”
He said he thought that funding is also being sought for more counseling and rehab. “It’s likely to be aimed at a wide range of help, from first responders with NARCAN, to rehab and working with doctors and hospitals.”
He mentioned that in the state of Ohio, rehab programs are being conducted even in the jails.