JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Highway Patrol is joining the fight against opioids. The drug has caused a nationwide crisis, which the president declared a public health emergency on October 26.
Troopers throughout the state recently started training on Narcan, a medication used to block the effects of an opioid overdose.
"It's a nasal spray, which in combination with recognizing overdose symptoms and CPR, gives you the opportunity to save that person's life who may be in overdose condition," Missouri Highway Patrol Public Information Director John Hotz said.
Troops have been training since August with the MO-HOPE Project through a program called Train the Trainer.
"The program allows us to train a few troopers, and then they go out and start training the rest of the troopers around the state," MO-HOPE Project Manager Brandon Costerison said.
Costerison said Governor Eric Greitens worked with state departments to address the issue and help fund programs.
"Part of the mandate of our federally funded grant is to equip law enforcement and emergency responders with the medication, because they're often the first people on the scene," Costerison said.
The training includes an in-depth presentation on the risks and signs of an opioid overdose and how to administer the medication effectively.
"The training is making us aware of the effects of opioid overdoses, and more cognizant of those if we encounter them on the road. And now we have a tool in order to help save lives on the roadway," Missouri Highway Patrol Corporal Joe Veasman said.
The highway patrol has already reported several situations where lives have been saved using Narcan.
"We've actually had in crash conditions, since the training, troopers who experienced people who were overdosing," Hotz said. "They were able to call for the Narcan to be administered, and those people were successfully revived."
Hotz said he hopes the trainings will bring more public awareness to the issue and ultimately reduce opioid deaths.
"This problem is a huge issue right now. We're starting to see more and more of this situation in Missouri, so certainly it is important again if we're likely to come in contact with these individuals that we do have something there that we can use to revive them," Hotz said.
The highway patrol plans to have all troopers trained by the end of the year.