In his push against the opioid epidemic, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens last month signed an executive order that would equip Missouri state troopers with an anti-overdose drug.
What remains unclear is how long it will take to train troopers and other state law enforcement officers to use the drug, naloxone, and where the money will come from.
The governor’s July 18 order directed five state departments to collaborate against opioid overdose deaths by using “every available state and federal dollar” to provide naloxone to first responders “who currently have the greatest need for opioid antagonists.”
Naloxone and other opioid antagonists bind to opioid receptors in the brain, displacing opioids and preventing any more from binding to the receptors. In effect, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose, knocking opioid molecules off the brain’s receptors and rendering the overdosing person almost immediately sober.
The order should effectively equip all state law enforcement officers with nasal-spray naloxone, Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said by phone. State troopers have begun registering to train under the Missouri Opioid-Heroin Overdose Prevention Education (MO-HOPE) project, funded by a $5 million federal grant that aims to hand out 36,000 doses of naloxone over five years to reduce opioid overdoses in Missouri.
Highway Patrol troopers, Department of Conservation supervisors and social service providers will start training under the program and become certified to train their coworkers by Aug. 30, said Brandon Costerison, a MO-HOPE project manager.
More money will need to come from somewhere else to train and equip all state troopers, said Rachel Winograd, who oversees the grant at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health. Other state law-enforcement officers to be equipped include Capitol police, state park rangers and conservation agents.
In addition to running about 10 training events a month, the MO-HOPE project gives out samples of naloxone to treatment providers, soup kitchen operators and first responders.
The project is on pace to distribute about 5,000 doses of naloxone — also known by the brand name Narcan — in its first year, which wraps up at the end of August. About 1,200 of those doses will be in the hands of law enforcement, mostly with police and sheriff’s departments rather than state agencies.
Williams, who previously oversaw a naloxone program in North Carolina that equipped about 80 percent of all police officers with the drug, said he would like to see all officers in Missouri eventually carrying the overdose antidote.
Costerison said Williams’ aim to train and equip all police officers with naloxone was a “very ambitious goal” for which the project did not have enough resources.
Winograd said the goal to equip state troopers with the drug was likewise not possible through the MO-HOPE project alone. Two nasal spray doses cost the project about $75.
Sara O’Connor, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, did not identify any funding sources outside of MO-HOPE when asked about implementing the executive order. “DHSS is currently in the process of applying for a grant to ensure naloxone is available to all first responders in the state,” she said in a statement.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Shane Sanderson: 816-234-4440, @shanersanderson