The opioid abuse epidemic is expanding the role of our law enforcement officers.

Sgt. Kevin Fair of the Atlantic City police department said for the past few years his and other police departments across New Jersey have been carrying the heroin antidote Narcan, which is used to revive overdose victims.

“We have become true first-responders in the sense that now when someone overdoses instead of sending paramedics or an EMT, they’re now sending the police officers as the initial first-responders,” he said. “Our officers are dedicated in what they do now. They’ve bought in, and their main goal is to assist these individuals.”

Last winter, Atlantic City police officer Joe Bereheiko got a call about a drug overdose victim, and when he arrived he administered Narcan. The man was revived and was able to get up, climb into an ambulance and go to the hospital.

“That’s really what being a police officer is all about. You know, we go to the medical calls, so if we can help while we’re there, to me it’s a good thing,” he said.

A few weeks later, he got a thank-you letter from the overdose victim’s mother.

“You know, she told me that overdose was what I guess was the last straw for him and put him over the edge and he knew he needed help. And because of that he was able to get himself into a rehab program, so that’s very gratifying,” Bereheiko said.

Fair said when members of the community thank the police for saving overdose victims, “we truly appreciate that and let members of our department and the public know about it.”

Bereheiko said he feels positive about the expanding roll of the officer on the beat.

“It’s not always going after the bad guys. It’s still a huge aspect of the job, but we are the first-responders. We’re there whenever people need us,” he said.

“A lot of times we get there to these things before the ambulance or the fire department does because we’re on the street 24 hours a day, so we have to evolve and be able to help people in that way if we can," he said.

He added more than going after criminals, “we’re out there to help people. It’s an all-encompassing job. It’s not just arresting bad people.”

More from New Jersey 101.5:

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

Sign up for the NJ1015.com Newsletter

Get the best of NJ1015.com delivered to your inbox every day.