Westminster police officers train to use life-saving medication to help stop opioid overdoses

By Jessica Peralta

Westminster PD Officer Nick Jezulin explained to his colleagues during a briefing/training session on a recent Friday evening just how effectively Narcan works.

“Almost like instant revival,” Jezulin said.

Westminster Police Officer Andy Travis, right, Officer Malcolm Pierson, and Officer Claire Tran attend a training class on the use of Narcan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jezulin, one of seven instructors at the Westminster Police Department trained by a nurse experienced in Narcan administration, explained to the seven officers in the training that the nasal spray is specifically designed to stop and counteract the effects of an opioid-induced overdose.

“[Narcan is] safe and it’s easy and it has a strong response,” Jezulin said.

With opioid use on the rise, the WPD is one of the latest agencies in Orange County to implement Narcan – the brand name for naloxone. Administered as a nasal spray, the single-dose medication is used by members of law enforcement to stop a life-threatening overdose in its tracks in cases where paramedics are not yet on the scene.

“It buys us time to give them proper medical treatment,” said Sgt. Andy Stowers, who is coordinating Narcan implementation for the agency, adding that it only takes one to three minutes to take effect. “The drug will actually stop the overdose for up to 90 minutes.”

Westminster PD Officers attend a training class on the use of the life-saving drug Narcan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Stowers estimates that the WPD receives calls for opioid overdose about twice a month. Anyone at the agency who may encounter an opioid overdose situation is going through training, which includes patrol, detectives, forensics, property, and jail staff.

Each patrol officer will check out the medication before heading out for a shift and then will return it at the end of the shift. Narcan is temperature-sensitive and can’t be left in patrol vehicles indefinitely.

“We’re doing it all for the dangers of opioids and also for the safety of all our frontline officers and staff,” Stowers said. “We’re not trying to replace medics, we’re just trying to assist them.”

This is a nasal injector for training purposes of the drug Narcan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Opioids include a wide spectrum of both prescription and illegal analgesic (or pain-relief) drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, and Vicodin.

As effective as Narcan is against opioid overdose, Jezulin informed the officers that if someone is administered the medication that isn’t on opioids, nothing will happen.

But in cases where a person is not breathing and non-responsive from an opioid overdose, Narcan can save their life.

He instructed the class to approach administering Narcan like other emergency measures in cases when medics haven’t arrived.

Westminster PD Officer Claire Tran attends a training class on Narcan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“You’re gonna treat it like you would CPR,” he said.

Commander Cameron Knauerhaze, who oversees the Narcan program at the WPD, said the use of the medication does not interfere with the work of medics. Orange County Fire Authority provides the city’s paramedic, as well as fire, services.

“In Westminster, OCFA has a great response time and we look at this life-saving scenario as a team effort to save lives,” Knauerhaze said.