Winston-Salem police led state in successful opioid overdose reversals in 2017

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Feb. 25 will make it one year since Jeffrey Black lost his wife Karen to a heroin overdose.

"It's been really hard to not have her around," Black said. "She was my number one cheerleader, my number one support. My wife had been trying to get clean."

Black, a recovering addict, says his wife was with a friend when it happened, but that friend didn't call police fast enough.

"Nobody was there that had Narcan," he said. "None was brought in enough time."

Winston-Salem police say stories like Karen's are why more than half of their patrol officers carry Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

"After a dose or two or maybe even three, at times, we start slowly seeing them come back to life," Capt. William Penn said.

So far, it's been working.

Last year, Winston-Salem police successfully reversed 82 overdoses, more than any other law enforcement agency in the state, according to the nonprofit NC Harm Reduction Coalition.

"It's a bittersweet distinction in that we were able to save 82 lives, but it's bitter in the fact that it's so many people overdosing on opiates," Penn said.

In 2017, Greensboro police saved at least 58 people through successful overdose reversals.

High Point police had 37; Burlington police had at least 13.

"We're doing our best to save lives," Penn said.

Penn says before they carried Narcan, officers couldn't do much to save someone who overdosed.

"There was a feeling of helplessness among these officers as we would simply wait on EMS to arrive so that person can get aid," Penn said.

Penn says although it saves lives, Narcan isn't the final answer to the opioid crisis.

"There's no guarantee that they'll be found in time to always be saved," he said.

People like Black say it does give addicts more time to turn their lives around.

"Survive to have another chance at another day to make another decision," Black said.