The Ocean and Monmouth County Prosecutors' Offices have announced a new partnership in the fight to stem the rising tide of heroin and opiate overdose deaths.

Acting Monmouth Co. Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni announces new Narcan partnership, July 1, 2015
(Megan Madison, Townsquare Media)

From now on, hospitals within the Meridian, Barnabas, and CentraState systems will provide free refills for the naloxone (Narcan) kits police officers use to bring patients back from the brink of death.  Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni says the process will be simple.

"Let's say an officer responds to a call for an overdose victim," Gramiccioni said.  "The officer reports to that scene and administers the naloxone... The patient is hopefully revived and from there the patient is transported to the nearest hospital for evaluation, and the officer would accompany the patient.  Now once he arrives at the hospital, he or she, the officer will submit the spent naloxone syringe and what's called a use receipt... From there, the nurse manager will provide the officer with a new kit."

Those use receipts will then be submitted to the Prosecutor's Office in the county of origin for data collection purposes.  But Gramiccioni says the real key to the program is twofold.

"This agreement will greatly help local police defray budget costs of replacing naloxone on their own," Gramiccioni said.  "And also, more importantly, insure that at all times, police officers will have a kit on their person."

Ocean County Prosecutor Joe Coronato says taking the cost of naloxone kits off police departments' shoulders will be a big help, especially in smaller communities.

"Initially, the cost was about $17 a vial, and the manufacturer unfortunately had more than doubled or tripled the cost in the last six months," Coronato said.  "I guess as demand seemed to rise."

New state and federal agreements are in the works to help defray those costs through rebates and other means, but the Ocean/Monmouth agreement will reduce the law enforcement cost for naloxone replacement to zero.  The First Responders pilot program has saved almost 470 lives since it launched in June 2014, with about a 90% success rate.

Burlington climbs aboard

In a related development, on Thursday July 2, Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi revealed a parallel alliance with Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, the Lourdes Health system and Virtua.

The heath providers are supplying county-affiliated law enforcement agencies with Narcan free of charge, on a quarterly basis. The initial doses were funded by the Prosecutor's Office, Bernardi said.

"I thank these institutions for their willingness to create a partnership to help us deal with this extremely deadly, prolific problem," Bernardi said in a prepared statement. "The generosity of the hospitals will save lives."