Heroes in blue

Mike Milbrandt

In a world that sometimes seems bereft of heroes, it should be of comfort to know that there are still heroes around when they are needed. Heroes that go above and beyond when a situation calls for it. These heroes wear blue.

At approximately 6:20 p.m. last Friday evening, Montevideo Police De­part­ment officers responded to a medical call. A 911 call was received by dispatch from a caller who reported that a female was overdosing on fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid which is similar to morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent. The Schedule II prescription drug is used to treat patients experiencing sever pain. Even small amounts of the drug can be fatal if used improperly, and it is a highly addictive substance.

Montevideo Chief of Police Ken Schule described what his officers found upon arriving at the scene. “Our officers were the first, first responders at the scene. At the same time we received the call, EMS was also dispatched. Upon arrival, our officers found an unresponsive female who was clearly experiencing labored breathing,” he said.

The officers quickly assessed the situation and administered one dose of Narcan to the unresponsive female. Schule said: “The officers then moved the patient to the floor and administered a second dose of Narcan.”

Narcan (naloxone HCl) is a medication that quickly reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It can restore normal respiration within seconds to a person whose breathing has been slowed or stopped due to opioid overdose. It is administered via a fast acting nasal spray.

According to Schule, the patient continued to have difficulty breathing and when EMS arrived, they administered another dose. “After the third dose, the patient became responsive and was transported to the hospital,” he said.

Thanks to the quick actions of MPD officers and EMS personnel, the patient survived the overdose. Schule is very pleased with the way his officers responded to the call. He said: “Sgt. Steve Nagel, Investigator Carmen Beninga, Officer Cody Odegard, Officer Lucas Gronli, and MPD Sgt. Aaron Wrobleski who was working as a deputy for the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office at the time, all responded as they had been trained. I am proud of them, they did a great job!”

Schule said that the officers will be publicly honored at an upcoming city council meeting.

While a tragedy was averted this time, opioid abuse and potential overdoses will no doubt continue to occur. “There is great concern about opioids in our community, ranging from heroin to oxycodone, hydrocodone, and others like fentanyl,” said Schule. “In this case, it was reported by the 911 caller the patient was prescribed fentanyl patches, but that she was chewing them, which is not an appropriate way of administration; it caused too much of the medication to enter into her body.”

Schule acknowledged the benefits of opioids as well as the risks. “Opioid pain relievers, including fentanyl, are medications that can help manage pain when other treatments and medicines are not able to provide enough pain relief. However, opioids have serious risks which include misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death,” he said.

Naloxone has been around for a long time, having been patented in 1961 and approved for the treatment of opioid overdose in 1971. However, it wasn’t until 1996 when opioid abuse kits began to be widely distributed by many states and given to medically untrained people.

From 1996 through 2014, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that over 26,000 cases of opioid overdose have been reversed by using opioid abuse kits.

Schule said: “Since MPD began carrying Narcan in our medical bags almost nine years ago, we have administered it several times, and it has saved lives.”

Keeping prescription drugs off the streets of Montevideo is a very important priority for MPD, and Schule noted that the public can help do its part. “If anyone in the community has unused medications, including opioids, they can bring them to the police station where we have a prescription drug drop box,” he said.

According to Schule, the medications are collected over a years time and are documented by weight. Once each year, the medications are brought to Alexandria and destroyed in an incinerator. “Annually, MPD brings up to several hundred ounds of medication to be destroyed. This is a great program, and it provides the community with a safe way to dispose of unused medications,” he said.

All in all, had it not been for the quick response and actions of the MPD officers and EMS personnel, the outcome of this incident could very well have been different in a very tragic way.