If someone’s child is about to die from a heroin overdose, we seriously doubt that parents care whether it’s a police officer or a firefighter administering the lifesaving antidote.
This is about saving lives. Yet the Narcan that forestalls the effects of heroin and prescription painkiller overdoses has gotten entangled in the typical mess where the unions want certain demands met.
The city is facing two separate charges filed with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board by the unions representing firefighters and police. Firefighters are saying that they have the exclusive right to administer Narcan, while the police union is upset that officers have been given additional duties without an opportunity to negotiate the extra work.
This goes back to a policy decision by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda implemented last month to train all 750 city police officers on how to administer Narcan to victims of overdoses.
As this page said when the decision was announced last month, Buffalo stands as a model for other local municipalities to follow after committing to train its police officers on how to administer the drug, which is dispensed through a nasal spray. It has been successful in treating potentially fatal overdoses of heroin and opioids, including OxyContin and Vicodin.
This is critical given that more people are turning to heroin as a substitute for the more expensive prescription painkillers. Narcan is a tool that can be used by both police officers and firefighters. In other words, whoever gets to the scene first.
One would think that instead of filing charges against the city for trying to save lives, the unions would embrace the idea. Instead, firefighters want to talk about exclusive work and their duties as first responders when it comes to medical emergencies. What happens when a police officer gets to the scene first? If firefighters get their way, that officer would not have the lifesaving drug on hand to administer.
The police union is not off the hook here, either. The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, which declined to comment to a reporter on its action against the city, wants to have a discussion at the bargaining table with city officials over whether officers are being properly compensated to administer the drug.
These are both ridiculous and dangerous arguments. Any delay or detour in the ability to administer Narcan, by either firefighters or police officers, could cost lives. There is no time to waste on figuring out how the mayor’s and police commissioner’s practical and wise policy decision might benefit one or both of the city’s unions.