Police officer recognized for saving lives
Hartsville Police Sgt. Riley Free was recently recognized by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster for saving the lives of two people by administering the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.
The opioid epidemic is a confirmed public health emergency in South Carolina, with overdose rates continuing to rise significantly each year. In 2019, there were more than 1,100 drug overdose deaths, and more than 75 percent of those deaths involved opioids. Preliminary data show that these numbers further increased in 2020.
Free was trained in the administration of naloxone through the Law Enforcement Officers Naloxone (LEON) program, a statewide effort that makes naloxone available to officers throughout the state and trains them in how to recognize overdose and administer the drug to assist an individual until EMS arrives. As of this year, 11,448 officers have been trained at 262 law enforcement agencies. Almost 2,400 overdoses have been reversed by officers trained through the LEON program since its inception in 2016.
In observance of Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day and September as Recovery Month, Gov. McMaster presented a symbolic challenge coin to each law enforcement officer trained through the LEON program who has administered naloxone in an emergency situation, and a lapel pin to those officers who have provided five or more administrations.
The LEON program is made possible by a federal grant to prevent prescription drug/opioid overdose-related deaths. The program was created by the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.