***** SHERIFF JIM McDONNELL'S STATEMENT *****

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for being here today because the story you report could save lives. This is a message to parents, families, schools, places of worship and public institutions to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of the latest health crisis that is killing an average of 160 people a day in our nation.

I am talking about deaths from drug overdoses. More people died from drug overdoses in 2015 than from car accidents. But today, I am specifically talking about overdoses attributed to heroin and opioids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2015, (most recent data) 91 people per DAY died from an overdose of Opioids or Heroin. In the past, prescription opioids were blamed for the increase in deaths from overdosing. However, the head of the CDC recently testified before Congress in March of 2017, and attributed the dramatic increase in overdose deaths to heroin and synthetic opioids.

And those increases are largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. We have not yet seen this level of devastation in Los Angeles County, but it is clear when you look at the public health tracking of overdose deaths across the nation, this Opioid epidemic is heading our way.

We believe a recent Narcotics operation in the Santa Clarita Valley is just an indicator of what's to come for Southern California law enforcement. We have seen a spike in overdoses in the month of April, but particularly during a 72 hour period at the end of that month. The first overdose was a 26-year-old female on April 23rd at 1:00 p.m. who was transported to a local hospital and later signed herself out and left.

Approximately 8 hours later, an overdose death of a 28-year-old male occurred in a park at 8:05 p.m. Six more overdoses were either transported or arrived at the hospital between the afternoon of April 24th and the early morning hours of April 25th.

One of the overdoses on April 24th occurred in a restroom of a local business. Deputies responded and administered CPR until paramedics arrived and administered Narcan®. The patient was stabilized and transported to the hospital.

During a follow up investigation with the family, they indicated the patient was an addict and in a residential treatment program. During the same time period, patrol deputies conducted a traffic stop and arrested one person for possession of heroin. That heroin, which looked like tar heroin, tested positive for fentynal.

Through the investigation, detectives learned that the possible source of the heroin, during the overdose time frame, was coming from the same source in the San Fernando Valley. In an effort to stop the overdoses, Narcotics detectives conducted four different narcotics operations between May 2nd and May 25th.

These operations netted 6 arrests, approximately 20 ounces of heroin, $10,000 dollars in cash, and two cars found with hidden traps to conceal the heroin. Detectives also recovered one package of heroin laced with fentanyl.

I know we are simply not going to arrest our way out of this problem. We need to approach this problem differently. Our plan moving forward needs to be multi-faceted and must include a team to address prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, as well as enforcement efforts.

The teams you see standing with me today are just the beginning of a County-wide response plan to interrupt the criminal enterprise behind the drug sales ...and create an integrated approach to saving lives.

With me are members of the LASD Special Operations Division, and Patrol. Also joining us today is Dr. John Connolly, Acting Deputy Director of Public Health who is also our partner on SAFE-MED L.A. SAFE-MED L.A. is a consortium of public health, government and law enforcement partners.

We must examine what is driving the addictions and equip ourselves with knowledge. We must also gather the means necessary to insulate LA County from the Opioid and heroin related devastation seen in other parts of the country.

We need to research new and innovative methods to impact the tragedies brought about by the opioid addiction epidemic and consider non-traditional law enforcement roles to be part of the solution.

Which brings me to our deployment of the lifesaving drug, Narcan®. Deputy Sheriffs are often first to arrive on scene of a medical emergency, which presents us with a unique opportunity to have an immediate impact on the effects of an opioid overdose.

Until recently, deputies have been restricted in the level of care we could provide an individual suffering from an overdose, but times have changed.

Naloxone, commonly known as Narcan®, is a life-saving intervention medication. It is now available over the counter to the public, as well as to first responders.

We are here today to proudly announce the Sheriff’s Department will be equipping our field deputies with this valuable life-saving medication. Our pilot program will include issuing more than 1,200 doses of Narcan® to deputies assigned to: Santa Clarita; Station; Crescenta Valley Station; East LA Sheriff Station; Community Colleges Bureau; and Parks Bureau.

Through our partnership with SAFE MEDLA, a coalition dedicated to taking a coordinated and multipronged approach to address drug abuse, we were awarded a grant for an additional 5,000 doses which we plan to get in the field in the coming months.

This will provide nearly every deputy in the field this valuable, life-saving tool.

Narcan® is very simple to use.

It requires minimal training and is almost risk free.

The medication is dispensed through a nasal atomizer with one puff in the nostril of the patient. It can be administered to any suspected opioid overdose, even on children at least one year of age.

We want to ensure people suffering from this illness know they can get help, recover, and go on to live productive lives.

The use of Narcan® on a patient may not cure the addiction epidemic in this country, but using Narcan® to reverse an overdose gives that person another opportunity to make a choice.
We want people to know addiction can be treated effectively, and recovery is possible. Without Narcan®, there is often no choice, just the tragic aftermath of family, friends, and loved ones mourning an unnecessary death.

The Opioid epidemic is our professional responsibility; but it has a personal impact for members of our department as well. As we researched the Department’s response to this epidemic, we learned a member of my own Command staff had experienced a family tragedy relating to opioid addiction.

She turned her loss into motivation and intense commitment to make a difference in this battle; and she has led the way in the Department’s efforts. Her name is Commander Judy Gerhardt.

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On a daily basis, law enforcement personnel are the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency. Many of these patients are suffering opioid overdose emergencies and require immediate assistance. Unfortunately, an average of 91 people per day nationwide become fatal statistics from prescription opioid overdose because they did not receive care during critical moments.
As acknowledged by the Center for Disease Control in a Tuesday, March 15, 2016, press release, there is an “epidemic of overdose deaths” related to prescription opioid overdose. The statement reported the alarming rate of prescription and sales of these products quadrupled since 1999, and assisted in the demise of our population.

Heroin, derived from the opium poppy flower, is a derivative of a true narcotic substance; it chemically induces an analgesic, euphoric sensation, and is highly addictive. Sadly, many patients who legitimately receive prescription opioid medication for chronic pain, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone, become addicted; when the script runs out, they may turn to illegally-obtained drugs like heroin and fentanyl to attain the same or similar feelings of pain relief and intoxication. The trouble is they are not controlled; product quality of illegally-obtained drugs is not guaranteed and risky.

As the result of eight overdoses, which included one death, occurring within a 72-hour timeframe in late April, 2017, in the Santa Clarita Valley area, Narcotics Bureau detectives conducted four separate investigation operations. The objective to locate the drug source and stop the devastation culminated in the arrest of six persons, and the location of approximately 20 ounces of heroin, $10,000 in cash, and two cars with hidden traps to conceal the narcotics. One package of heroin was laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid administered in surgical settings by medical professionals for the purpose of sedation.

During a press conference at the Hall of Justice on Thursday, June 15, 2017, Sheriff Jim McDonnell addressed a grave concern for the deadly wave of overdoses sweeping across Los Angeles County, specifically focusing on those from misuse of opioids and heroin. In an effort to combat the number of fatal statistics and increase chances of survival in cases of suspected overdose emergencies, Sheriff McDonnell announced a multi-faceted approach. Teams, not just for enforcement efforts, but to address drug prevention, intervention and rehabilitation, were formed to take action in an integrated approach to saving lives.

“We need to understand what is driving the addictions,” said Sheriff McDonnell, “and equip ourselves with the knowledge and the means, to prevent the opioid and heroin epidemic which has devastated the northeast and parts of the midwest from taking root in L.A. County.”

 

The newest, landmark portion of the effort to reduce opioid overdose emergencies is the pilot program of issuing the anti-opioid medication, naloxone, to field deputies. The product, known by the brand name Narcan®, comes in a four-milligram nasal spray which blocks or reverses the effects of opioid medication. By having a small, single-dose spray readily available, first-responding deputies are further empowered to aid in lifesaving efforts by deploying this product.

More than 1,200 doses of Narcan® will be issued to deputy personnel assigned to Crescenta Valley, East Los Angeles and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Stations, and Community Colleges and Parks Bureaus, as part of the intervention pilot program. Through partnership with Safe Med LA, a consortium of public health, government and law enforcement partners dedicated to a coordinated and multipronged approach of addressing prescription drug abuse, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was awarded a grand for an additional 5,000 doses. The doses will provide nearly every deputy working in the field one atomizer, and potentially rescue as many opioid overdose patients.

The implementation of Narcan® deployment has its roots in the personal life of our own Commander Judy Gerhardt. It was only six months ago she lost her nephew, Maxwell “Macky” Baker, to a heroin overdose.
He was only 23 years old and just getting to the good part of youth; he had a job and a girlfriend, and was continuing his studies at a notable university in Massachusetts. Despite having all the benefits of growing up in an affectionate family as the son of a physician and with relatives in law enforcement, Macky had a heroin addiction since he was 15 years old. His dependence began with the consumption of prescribed opioids and quickly progressed. At 22 years of age, Macky sought help and, after much dedication, weaned himself from the deadly narcotic. He attended college, earned an associate of arts degree and was on his way to wonderful things…until an injurious car accident led him to require surgery for a broken hand and pain medication.

Macky was upfront with the doctors about his former addiction, but the pain was so intense, it required relief from the use of prescription opioid medication. Regrettably, less than one month later, it was discovered Macky renewed his connection with heroin and suffered a fatal overdose.

“The deadly effects of opioids are universal. They wreak havoc on the lives of people and families of all levels and creeds,” said Commander Gerhardt. “I’m proud to be a part of initiating a program which will help save the life of someone like my Macky, who went down the wrong path and got too far down the road. We have an opportunity to give them a second chance, so let’s do it.”