Representatives of several jails in Maine – including Androscoggin County Jail, York County Jail and Somerset County Jail – say their staffs have used naloxone at least a half-dozen times to reverse drug overdoses.

And in early April at the Kennebec County Jail, a corrections officer handed a naloxone spray kit to a medical professional who used the medication to save a young women’s life while she was being booked, said jail Administrator Richard Wurpel.

Last year, 418 Mainers died from drug overdoses, 11 percent more than in 2016. The nation saw over 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016, and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently issued an advisory encouraging more people to routinely carry naloxone.

A state law that went into effect in 2017 allows certified corrections officers to administer naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan. Previously, police officers and medical professionals could administer the overdose reversal medication but jail guards could not.

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton, vice president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, said he supported the law because individuals brought in for booking may be under the influence of opioids. Not all Maine correctional facilities have 24-hour medical staffing, he said.

“It’s difficult that correctional facilities are specializing in substance abuse issues, mental health issues and behavioral issues,” Morton said.

The bill became law in mid-2017 after lawmakers overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who has long argued that naloxone alone enables individuals addicted to drugs.

“Rather (than) invest in special training for corrections officers to administer Narcan, counties should instead invest in medical services,” LePage said. He also said the legislation didn’t address whether corrections officers would be immune from lawsuits if something goes wrong with administering naloxone.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general said the office doesn’t track naloxone use in county jails, including whether medical staffers or jail guards administered such medication.

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