CITY HALL — All Chicago police officers should be equipped with nasal spray that could reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, city officials agreed Friday.
Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago said he supported efforts to equip every patrol officer and sergeant with naloxone nasal spray that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. The Fire Department opposed an effort to allow officers to inject those suffering from overdoses, Santiago said.
"The nasal spray is a lot easier," Santiago said. "Anyone can do it."
At a hearing of the City Council's Finance Committee, 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke said the Fire Department's change of heart was "refreshing" and necessary as the city struggles to cope with a soaring number of opioid-related deaths.
But before each patrol car can be equipped with two doses of the drug — at a cost of $75 — the city will have to find a way to pay for it, after the Chicago Police Department failed to win a grant to cover the cost of the drug and to train officers, estimated at $300,000, police officials said.
The Fire Department responded to 6,500 calls for help in response to overdoses in 2016 and expects to easily surpass that total this year, Santiago said. That is an average of 18 calls per day, he said.
The first class of Police Academy recruits trained to administer naloxone — as required by state law — will graduate in January, police officials said.
Chicago firefighters who serve as paramedics already carry naloxone.
City officials announced in July they would fund drug treatment for 1,000 residents by spending an additional $700,000.
In 2016, there were about 684 opioid-related deaths in Chicago, according to data provided by the Cook County Medical Examiners Office. That represents an increase of nearly 97 percent from 2015, according to the data.
In addition, officials said Chicago recently bought $250,000 worth of naloxone. That effort saved 1,544 lives, and helped the Chicago Recovery Alliance distribute 4,541 naloxone kits, officials said.