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56 NYPD Officers Honored for Using Anti-Overdose Drug to Save Lives

By Nicholas Rizzi | November 15, 2016 3:39pm
 The city honored the 56 officers who administered naloxone saves on Staten Island.
Staten Island "Blue Angel" Award Ceremony
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BLOOMFIELD — In the past two years, NYPD Officer Louise Sanfilippo has saved the lives of people overdosing on opioids 13 times.

"While it's a nice number — think what's behind that number," she said Tuesday at a "Blue Angel" ceremony honoring the 56 officers who have saved people with the help of the drug naloxone — which essentially reverses the effects of an overdose.

Sanfilippo, who works in the 122nd Precinct, administered it her first time to a man overdosing in the back seat of a car. Since then, she’s had to use naloxone to save the life of a person overdosing in two separate occasions. She also administered the drug to a man who was saved from an overdose by another officer a week before.

"It's not as shocking as it was and we're responding quicker, but it's not something you want to get used to," she said. "It's not a good number to say it's a lot. It's not a good thing to be known as this is where the epidemic is."

Since the city outfitted emergency workers with naloxone in 2014, NYPD officers have used it 86 times to save 82 lives.

"By no stretch of the imagination should we any way think that this breakfast is a victory lap,"  Borough President James Oddo said at the ceremony held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield. "This is a chance for us to say thank you to you for your bravery and your actions in saving lives."

Among those honored was Officer Joseph Roschbach, 33, who saved a woman from an OD in the bathroom of the St. George Ferry Terminal while she was waiting to go to work.

Roschbach — a former EMT — said he had to administer two doses of the drug before the woman finally started to breathe normally, regain a pulse and become conscious.

"It's undescribeable," said Roschbach, who's been on the force for nine years, about administering a save. "It's a great feeling just to give someone that opportunity. It's amazing."

After the overdose, police connected the woman with Luke Nasta, executive director of Camelot Counseling Center, who had staff spent weeks counseling her over the phone. Eventually, she went into a detox program and she's been in a 24-hour center for more than 100 days.

The woman was a mother of two with a job on Wall Street, which Nasta said highlights how prescription pill and heroin addiction has struck people throughout the entire borough.

"The stereotypical opiate dependent person, the demonization of who that person is, it's just not real today," he said. "Today it's us, it's our families."

Staten Island has been in the throes of the epidemic for the past several years and the borough is on track to have a record number of overdoses this year.

So far this year, there have been 70 fatal suspected ODs from prescription pills and heroin, already surpassing last year's numbers, according to District Attorney Michael McMahon.

In 2014, the NYPD started a pilot program in the 120nd Precinct to outfit officers with naloxone to help curb the rates and later expanded to include all Staten Island precincts and EMT workers.

Aside from outfitting emergency workers with it, city pharmacies started to sell naloxone without a prescription as part of an initiative by the mayor to cut down on the overdose rates.