Northwest Regional police Officer Frank Jones proudly took an oath to put himself in harm’s way to protect the public from those who perpetrate crimes.
In recent years those duties have expanded to bringing individuals back to life following overdose from opioids, prescription drugs, and other substances prevalent in so many Lancaster County communities.
Every police vehicle in the county contains the overdose antidote Narcan for use in emergency overdose situations, which happen routinely – daily, for some departments.
Police officers are often first on scene where someone is unconscious, not breathing and appearing beyond help.
The reaction has become natural for Jones: retrieve Narcan and bring the person back.
“It’s part of the job,” said Jones, whose background includes military service and social work. “I’m human and they’re human, and we are in this together.”
Jones estimates he has administered Narcan to more than 20 individuals during his four-and-half years at a York County police department and current assignment with Northwest Regional police, which serves mostly-rural areas of Lancaster County.
“All of mine have been saved,” Jones said.
HOPEFUL FOR TREATMENT
In response to the opioid epidemic outburst a few years ago, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office secured grant funding to supply Narcan to every police department in the county. Every on-duty police vehicle carries at least one dose.
Jones sees administering Narcan as another way to help a neighbor, a required addition to his duties that are more geared toward enforcement of laws.
But that doesn’t mean the work isn’t taxing. Like many other officers, Jones has “saved” the same person multiple times.
“It gets frustrating,” he acknowledged, “but I’m not walking in their shoes. I don’t know what they’re going through.”
Jones hopes the individuals he “saves” seek treatment. But, he said, that response to a near-death experience is not automatic for individuals in the grasp of addiction.
“I have heard of some going into treatment,” and to those who have stayed on a path of sobriety, Jones said: “Fantastic.”
Much study-based data suggests sustained, long-term treatment (far beyond 28 or 90 days) is the surest path to full recovery.
Jones is always hopeful that an overdose incident will be a person’s path to treatment.
UNCONSCIOUS BEHIND THE WHEEL
Emergency incidents have emotional impact on the officers as well.
A few months ago, Jones came upon an intersection in Mount Joy Borough where a man in his 20s was behind the wheel of a vehicle, his foot on the brake, the vehicle in drive.
The driver was unconscious.
A passerby placed the vehicle in park and pulled keys from the ignition as Officer Jones rushed to get Narcan. Jones pushed the plunger on the Narcan applicator, and the driver came to.
A couple years ago while patrolling heavily-traveled I-83 in York County as an officer there, Jones came upon a vehicle – with driver and passenger both unconscious.
A kindergartner was in the backseat.
Jones and a backup officer administered Narcan to the unconscious couple. Both lived.
The officers’ reactions were swift and without hesitation – even if the tasks were absent from traditional police academy criteria.
Now, part of the job.
“I’m the last person to judge anyone,” Jones said.
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