With New Jersey’s heroin and prescription drug-abuse epidemic continuing, police and emergency responders in all 21 counties are carrying and frequently using naloxone, (the brand name is Narcan), the heroin antidote that revives overdose victims.

As a result, thousands of lives have been saved in New Jersey over the past year alone. But not everybody is happy about the program.

According to Ocean County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave, there has been a bit of a backlash against reviving heroin overdose victims with naloxone.

He said sometimes people will call and complain, but “a lot of it we see on social media. On Facebook especially, we’ve had a good number of comments from those who felt we were enabling these individuals.”

Della Fave said some people believe that spending money on the drug is a waste of valuable resources.

“Many people don’t realize taxpayer dollars are not used to fund the program,” he said. “Initially, when we first started the program, drug forfeiture money paid for it. But since then we’ve been lucky enough to broker a deal and now the hospitals are taking on that cost.”

Della Fave said it’s unfortunate some people don’t have a sense of compassion about this issue.

“If someone was dying on the ground of a heart attack, you wouldn’t stand there and watch them. You’d do CPR, you’d do anything possible to save their lives. That’s the same thing with Narcan,” he said. “Even if someone is a drug addict, they should be saved and at least have a chance at moving them towards recovery, rehab, detox, rehabilitation.”

In other words, this is about giving people a second chance in life, he said.

“We know of people who have recovered. It’s a life, and to us there’s no excuse for not trying to save that life,” he said.

Della Fave says that with some, there’s a stigma when it comes to drug addicts.

“It’s like they’re thought of as a throw-away person, a life that isn’t worth saving,"

When the program began on a trial basis in Ocean County in 2014, police administered 124 naloxone doses. That has climbed to more than 300 so far this year.

Those treated with the drug are encouraged to enroll in rehab.

“They’re paired with a recovery coach, they’re monitored, they’re tracked and they’re moved towards recovery,” Della Fave said. “In a lot of cases there is success, and we’ll keep working toward that.”

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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