Minneapolis police are finally following city firefighters and paramedics in equipping officers with lifesaving naloxone.
The drug, also known as Narcan, depresses opiate receptors in the brain and restarts the respiratory system following an overdose. The growing number of opioid deaths in Minnesota has seen it carried by many first responders the past few years.
In Hennepin County last year, preliminary numbers indicate there were 162 opioid deaths – an almost 50 percent increase compared to two years earlier.
Minneapolis had resisted carrying Narcan until now, previously arguing that it is typically paramedics or firefighters who are first on the scene of an overdose.
But that changes on Monday, with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo joining Mayor Jacob Frey to announce the first officers who will undergo training to carry and use the drug.
Officers from the 3rd Precinct, covering south Minneapolis, will be the first to get the training, as that area has seen a higher number of overdose death from opioids like heroin, fentanyl and prescription pain pills compared to other parts of the city.
Around 125 officers are expected to be trained by the end of the week, police say.
Minneapolis follows multiple other Minnesota police departments that have started carrying Narcan in response to the opioid crisis.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Deputy Sheri Bukkila became the first Minnesota police officer to use Narcan to save a life in March 2015, with other police departments including Eden Prairie and Duluth also successfully using it to save lives.
Coon Rapids became the first fire department to carry it in 2014, with a firefighter saving the life of an overdose victim that November.