MOUNT CARMEL — After several months of enduring a complicated process, the Wabash County Sheriff's Office and Mount Carmel Police Department have been trained to administer Narcan, a drug used to revive people who overdose on opiates like heroin.
Yet heroin is not currently a problem in Wabash County, Sheriff Derek Morgan said. So why get trained?
"We haven't necessarily seen it here, but I guess we are in the middle of a heroin epidemic throughout the state — that's why we are having all of these laws coming through," he said.
In September of 2015, the state of Illinois passed Public Act 99-0480, which expanded the access to the opioid antidote Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan. First responders, school nurses, family members and even the person at the risk of an overdose themselves can now acquire Narcan from a trained pharmacist.
Local law enforcement is now required to possess Naloxone and have had to establish policies for the acquisition, storage, transport and administration of the drug — all without funding from the state, Sheriff Morgan said.
"It's another one of those unfunded mandates. They pass a law, throw it out there, and we are supposed to figure it out," he said. "Even through the Sheriff's Association, we were trying to figure out which way to go and where we were supposed to get the Narcan. Everybody was kind of hitting brick walls."
A mobile training unit, based out of Carbondale, eventually hosted a "train the trainer" event, Sheriff Morgan said.
"We sent a deputy down there so he could come back and train us and the city (MCPD) a couple weeks ago," he said.
Now, the sheriff is working with the Wabash County Health Department and Dr. Hungerford to get the "Narcan Standing Order" signed, which is a permission that covers the possession and administration of the nasal spray. Sheriff Morgan said he expects the permission to be granted sometime this week so local law enforcement can order Narcan.
"It's been really tough to line out. I have actually been working with the Richland County Sheriff — they've got their Narcan now — and he's shown me what he has went through, so we are going to follow that lead," Sheriff Morgan said. "We're hoping to have what we need here hopefully within the next few weeks."
Narcan will cost the sheriff's office $75 per unit, and it expires after about a year if it is unused. Which means law enforcement will continue to purchase more units every year, regardless of whether it is used or not.
Sheriff Morgan said heroin cases are very prevalent in Centrailia and a few have occurred in neighboring White County. While heroin use is not common in the Wabash County area, overdoses are.
"We have overdose cases on a regular basis," Sheriff Morgan said. "It's prescription medication mostly. It's not uncommon to hear an ambulance call for an overdose."
Prescription medication is readily available for people to abuse, he continued — gesturing to the trash can full of pill bottles dropped off at the office. But, Narcan doesn't work in most of those cases.
Methamphetamine is also a major issue.
"A lot of people think meth is gone or not as prevalent as it was, but we are seeing plenty of it. We are seeing a lot worse cases with it now, as in the mental health side of things," Sheriff Morgan said. "There's a lot of hallucinations now with our users."
He continued to recall instances of when local people hallucinated while using crystal meth, including a woman seeing snakes on her floors, a man shooting at his own house in the Cowling area and another man trying to dig up dinosaur bones in his yard.
"It's this crystal meth, which is coming from California, Mexico and other major cities that is really having an effect on people," Sheriff Morgan said. "I don't know if it's just Illinois right now or what, but every other county around us is just flooded with this ice (crystal meth) — you just can't get out from underneath of it."