First responders work to increase addiction outreach, support | Heroin Epidemic

After her son was revived from a heroin overdose in Atlantic City, Elisa Ford wrote a letter thanking the police officer who used Narcan on her son that night.

Atlantic City police Officer Joe Bereheiko had never gotten any correspondence like that in all the years he had worked as a first responder in the city. He remembers the February 2015 night vividly, as Ford’s son was the first of many people he would go on to save from an overdose.

Experts say interactions between the family members of victims and first responders are becoming increasingly common as more police, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and others work to reverse opioid overdoses.

And because of that, first responders say they’ve come to better understand what people who suffer from addictions and their families are going through and put them in touch with the right agencies, professionals and programs for support.

“It’s good to hear that what we do, saving their lives, sometimes puts them over the edge, and they go into treatment or get off the streets after,” Bereheiko said. “It can be an unfortunate wake-up call for them and their families, but we have to try and help.”

Atlantic County has one of the highest number of Narcan deployments in the state, with 242 uses from January through March, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. Neighboring counties Cumberland, Cape May and Ocean all recorded 100 or less.

Atlantic City police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Fair said the department has used Narcan, also known by the opioid antidote’s generic name, naloxone, 11 times so far this year.

Ford, of Newfield, Gloucester County, said she knew little about addiction. It wasn’t until her son came to her at 19 years old, pulled up his sleeves and showed her the track marks on his arm that she was thrust into that world.

“The things I saw, what…

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