LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) – While the opioid crisis in Arkansas continues, one of the biggest problems we see in this crisis is stigma and misunderstanding.
"Just because you have a substance abuse disorder doesn't mean you're a lower class person that's not worth saving,” said Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane.
Over 3,300 officers in Arkansas are trained on how to use Narcan. So far, at least 68 people have been saved in an overdose because of it.
"When somebody's in that critical need and needs to breathe then you have the duty to that that's why you swore the protect and serve,” Lane said.
Lane said educating emergency personnel about drug overdoses is key because often there is a stigma around people who overdose.
"We have to change the way we look at substance abuse is a disease. A lot of people don't overdose on purpose,” Lane said.
We received controversial Facebook comments made by a dispatcher in Lonoke County.
The comments say, “I feel that if an officer has Narcan, then they should only use it on children, officers and other significant situations that are not your average overdose.”
Another comment said: “People that OD should not receive Narcan. Unless it is an accidental overdose by someone who accidentally took too much medicine or a kid that got a hold of something or a cop who inhaled some type of opioid.”
"The big key to this is education. We have to break these stigmas,” Lane said.
Lane said dispatchers are not required to be trained on Narcan because of funding.
"We mainly train certified officers that have that contact that with the public. Dispatcher duties are usually quantified to the police station or to the sheriff's office inside,” Lane said.
Right now, officers are only required to go through a one and a half hour Narcan training session once.
But Lane said the state is looking into annual training for both officers and people like dispatchers that may come into contact with someone in an overdose.
"[Narcan] gives that person a second chance and I don't think a police officer that's been through the training takes that lightly. They know what their duty is,” Lane said.
We reached out to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.
Sheriff John Staley said the dispatcher who made the comments did not go through any Narcan training.
“This is a young man that made a statement he wasn’t educated on," Staley said. "This dispatcher made a personal statement on his personal Facebook page. That is not the views of the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.”
Staley said his deputies are trained to use Narcan and to do the right thing in any overdose situation.