Anchorage residents protest in support of Narcan use

A protest in front of the Anchorage Police Department Tuesday urged the administration to adopt a policy to allow officers to carry Narcan kits in their vehicle
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A protest in front of the Anchorage Police Department Tuesday urged the administration to adopt a policy to allow officers to carry Narcan kits in their vehicles.

The protest comes as part of the State Health Department’s Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention — Project Hope — sent hundreds of Narcan kits to Anchorage police, who then promptly returned them. Anchorage Police Department Community Relations Specialist Renee Oistad answered questions via email about the department’s lack of Narcan use.

“APD does not have a current policy in place for officers to carry Narcan, thus the Narcan kits were returned so they can be used elsewhere,” Oistad said.

Narcan is the brand name of a device that carries naloxone, which is often used as an antidote for an opioid overdose. The decision by Anchorage police not to carry Narcan stands in contrast to some other police departments in Alaska that have been instructed by department leadership to administer the drug in the event of a suspected heroin or opioid overdose.

“The Anchorage Fire Department (AFD) and the Anchorage Police Department (APD) communicate on a regular basis regarding the administration of first aid,” Oistad wrote. “The most important component of saving a life is establishing airflow which is accomplished through CPR. We live in an area where both APD and AFD response times are quick. Should APD arrive on scene first, administering CPR is the proper response until AFD arrives to assess the situation. Should it be appropriate to administer Narcan or any other drug, AFD will make that determination and do so.”

Sandy Snodgrass lost her son Bruce to fentanyl poisoning in October of 2021. Snodgrass organized the protest and doesn’t agree with the decision by Anchorage police not to carry and use the potentially life-saving dose of naloxone.

“They could save a life while they are waiting for the fire department to come and administer Narcan,” Snodgrass said. “I know that my son would not want anyone to die the way that he died, so I have to do everything I can to prevent people dying in Anchorage from fentanyl poisoning.”

Snodgrass has been distributing the kits to officers she meets on the street, and says nearly all have agreed to take them.

“This is not a police issue, I think the police are working very, very hard in Anchorage to face this fentanyl problem, but one tool that they need has not been provided to them by the administration at APD and that’s Narcan kits,” Snodgrass said.

In both Fairbanks and Juneau, police officers are provided Narcan kits. Juneau Police Department Lt. Jeremy Weske said officers in Juneau are trained to use the kits while they wait for paramedics to arrive. Some protestors said they don’t see drawbacks of carrying Narcan, either.

“They’ve been successfully used a couple of times that I know of,” Weske said in a phone interview. “I don’t see any drawbacks for us.”

Anchorage police said it’s possible their policy could change in the future.

“When considering whether a policy will be implemented for officers to administer Narcan we take into account the following: Operational, Medical, and Legal recommendations,” Oistad wrote. “As situations and recommendations evolve, so do our policies.”

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