FOX 32 NEWS - A simple puff may be the difference between life and death.
Officers from 30 suburban police departments are taking part in a new training program that aims to dramatically reduce the number of people dying from opioid overdose.
"Our medical examiner's office logged more than a thousand opioid deaths in 2017. More than a thousand. That's three times the number of fatalities caused by car accidents in the county at the same time period,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.
In 2015, state lawmakers passed the Illinois Heroin Crisis Act, requiring all police officers to carry narcan, the anti-opioid drug that stops and reverses the effects of an overdose. But police said that mandate came without training or funding.
"There were really no guidelines as to what we should buy. What should we carry? How should we train on this? How are we going to pay for this?" asked Mario Depasquale, president of the West Suburban Chiefs Association.
The Cook County Department of Homeland Security has partnered with Loyola Medicine to supply training and the nasal spray form or narcan to 1,900 suburban officers.
The program is funded by a $300,000 federal grant which is enough to pay for 2,500 boxes of Narcan, a total of 5,000 doses.
Dr. Mark Cichon, Loyola Medicine emergency room chair, said police are often in better position to save lives.
"Police officers many times are at the scene immediately,” Cichon said. “Their cars can move a little bit quicker than an ambulance. They can get to the site, to the side of an individual just because of how they're distributed within a community."
Bellwood Police received Narcan training in November and Police Chief Jiminez Allen said they’ve already seen results.
“November the 22nd our officers got fitted with the nasal spray and they went on the street and saved two lives,” Allen said. “On the first day, two lives.”