Kenosha County launches program to train officers, others on overdose-reversing Narcan

KENOSHA — The drug used to reduce opioid overdoses is becoming more widely available in a southeast Wisconsin county as part of effort to fight overdose deaths.

Kenosha County's Narcan Distribution Initiative will train law enforcement officials and others to use the overdose-reversing drug naloxone, the Kenosha News ( reported. Trained individuals will then be able to distribute naloxone kits to addicts and instruct them on proper usage.

The kits will have two doses of Narcan, the brand-name of the drug, in pre-loaded nasal sprays.

"We've had three opioid deaths in the last month," Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz said. "We want Narcan in all of our officers' hands."

Overdose deaths from prescription drugs and heroin are the leading cause of accidental death in Wisconsin. In Kenosha County, there were 54 toxicity deaths — which includes suicides and accidental overdoses — in 2016, the highest total in at least five years.

Some critics believe making the drug available will encourage people to avoid treatment, but that's a myth, said Amanda Tuura, a public health nurse working on the program.

"The truth is that if we aren't going to be distributing naloxone, the addicts are not going to be able to receive treatment because they are going to be dead," Tuura said.

The program is funded by a five-year grant providing $225,000 a year, according to Kenosha County Division of Health Director Cynthia Johnson said. The county is also using treatment programs, education and specialized diversion courts to address the opioid epidemic.