By Ann Marie Barron
Lives are being saved and Morris Township is a safer community today, thanks to a new Emergency Services Unit and specialized training funded for the Police Department by Atlantic Health System, the town’s police chief said recently.
“The community is benefitting from their generosity with better trained officers, better equipped officers,’’ said Morris Township Police Chief John K. McGuinness. “Atlantic Health has been very, very good to the Morris Township Police in 2016 and we can’t thank them enough.’’
Two township police officers, one a recently-trained ESU officer and emergency medical technician, were presented with the township police department’s Lifesaving Award last month for their quick action in saving the life of a township resident after an apparent drug overdose.
Police Officers Tim Neri and Justin Crowell were honored during a Township Committee meeting Dec. 21. The two worked together to administer Naloxone to a 19-year-old man after police say he had taken a deadly amount of heroin on Dec. 12. Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a medication used to block the effects of opiods in overdose situations. When injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes.
Narcan has been used by the department to save the lives of three overdose victims in the past year, the chief said.
Crowell, was one of six officers to take the EMT training course in 2016, McGuinness said. Atlantic Health System also provided the grant for the department to obtain Narcan two years ago, and train members to administer it.
Crowell’s newly-minted EMT skills allowed him to assess the Dec. 12 victim, who had been found face down on the floor, unconscious and unresponsive. Crowell quickly determined that he had been a victim of a drug overdose. He administered Narcan while Neri provided oxygen to the victim, and together they reversed the life-threatening condition. Neri joined the department just four months ago.
The Dec. 12 call might have gone differently, if not for Crowell’s new EMT skills, the chief explained.
“In most (overdose cases) you see the drugs laying there,’’ he said. “You see the needle. It’s pretty obvious. He didn’t have that in this case here. His EMT skills kicked in and he recognized that this was an overdose, administered the Narcan, and was able to save the life of a 19-year-old man.’’
McGuinness said the community is also better protected in another way, thanks to the funding from Atlantic Health System. Each patrol squad has two EMTs in the ESU unit who are also trained to deploy non-lethal weapons (tasers), and trained to carry rifles. The police officers usual sidearm is for close-range use, while rifles give them the advantage of accuracy over a much greater distance.
“We can’t buy rifles for every officer,’’ McGuinness said. “They’re very expensive. But now, I can put two out on the streets 24 hours a day.’’
Police did not provide the name of the overdose victim.