Oak Creek police officer uses opiate overdose training to save man’s life
March 18, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It started off as a very routine day with Oak Creek Police Officer Stephen Harbison looking out for cars speeding by on Main Street.
Then, shortly after 8 a.m. on Feb. 15, Harbison got a call to help a 30-year-old man who was unconscious, and the training Harbison received just six days prior would be used to save the man's life.
Harbison is among the growing number of police officers in Colorado to be trained in administering Naloxone, a drug also known as Narcan, which quickly reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.
During his day off on Feb. 9, Harbison attended a Narcan training that was part of the Colorado Naloxone for Life Initiative launched by the Colorado Attorney General's Office in 2016. The initiative was aimed at combatting Colorado's opiate crisis by providing $264,000 to equip and train first responders in administering the life-saving drug. There were at least 18 opiate deaths in Routt County in 2016.
“If he hadn’t of been there and had the training that gentleman… more than likely would have passed away."
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"Narcan has been a pretty big topic of discussion in the area," Oak Creek Police Chief Ralph Mader said.
Police in nearby Steamboat Springs began carrying the drug in October 2016 and administered it four times in the first seven months of its use.
Not all opiate overdoses are the result of recreational drug use. That was the case with the call Harbison responded to on South Sharp Street. Those who found the man suspected he accidentally took too much prescribed medication.
"I remember one guy asking me if I had Naloxone or Narcan," Harbison said.
A winter storm had rolled into the area, and paramedics had not yet arrived from Yampa and Stagecoach.
"It was just one of those days when you weren't going to get a rapid response," Oak Creek Fire Protection District Capt. Roger Moore said.
Harbison noticed the signs of an overdose. The man had cold, clammy skin, his eyes were not reacting, and he made snoring sounds while breathing.
Harbison administered the Narcan, and the man responded within just a couple of minutes.
"If he hadn't of been there and had the training that gentleman … more than likely would have passed away," Moore said.
For his actions, the Oak Creek Fire Protection District gave Harbison its Life Saving Award on March 8.
The Attorney General's Office provided the initial Narcan drugs to the police department. Oak Creek officers have not needed to administer Narcan since the Feb. 15 call, but Maher said he is working to make sure his department has the drug for the future. Each dose costs about $35.
Currently, two of the three Oak Creek police officers are trained in administering Narcan.