A discussion in Schuylkill County this week by police officers and state officials centered on the growing use of illegal drugs.

Especially of concern was heroin. The low monetary cost of the drug is one of the reasons for its popularity among addicts. It was stated that a bag of heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes.

Of course, the cost to society and the cost to the user's body is significantly higher.

Overwhelmingly, people testifying called for more funding to help combat the ever-growing wave of opiate addiction.

Among the suggestions was supplying Narcan, a drug that counteracts heroin overdoses, to emergency responders, and easier access to treatment.

Tamaqua Police Chief Rick Weaver said it makes sense for officers to carry Narcan.

Police carry first aid kits and AED devices to jump-start stalled hearts.

"Why? To save lives. Why not Narcan?" he said.

In Burlington, Massachusetts, police officers carry Narcan in their cruisers and it resulted in saving a life.

Police Chief Michael R. Kent said that the Burlington Police Department successfully brought a patient out of an unresponsive state on Sunday through the administration of Narcan.

Police officers were the first emergency personnel on scene after receiving a 911 call reporting a possible heroin overdose.

On arrival, they found a 24-year-old male convulsing on the floor. He was unresponsive and blue in the face. Two Burlington officers began first aid and administered a single dose of nasal Narcan to the patient.

The patient came around less than a minute later, and admitted to police that he drank alcohol and took multiple opiate pills.

Heroin and opioid overdose are leading causes of death in Massachusetts.

The problem moved Gov. Deval Patrick to declare it a public health crisis in March.

In Gloucester County, New Jersey, certified EMTs in the state who want to be able to use the drug must complete a training course first, under the terms of a waiver Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd.

Theoretically it makes sense. But there are things to consider.

How much training should be required of police officers to administer such medications?

What is the liability of the police officers if a person is misdiagnosed, such as being suspected of having a heroin reaction when in fact it is a diabetic situation?

So the question is: Should police be permitted to administer Narcan or should it be administered by EMTs?

Police officers are usually first to arrive on the scene of drug overdose calls.

Are local municipalities willing to pay for the extra training required for officers to administer the drug?

Would every officer of the department receive training? These are questions that first need to be answered.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com