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First life saved in Forsyth County with heroin overdose-reversal drug

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The Forsyth County News spent a year looking into the recent rise of heroin overdoses and what is being done locally to combat the causes at their root. The result was this six-part series.

FORSYTH COUNTY — A Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy is being credited with saving the life of a woman who overdosed on heroin by administering an opioid-reversal drug the law enforcement agency recently acquired.

The incident occurred Tuesday when Deputy William Miller, who has only been with the force since December, and his partner conducted a welfare check at a local hotel on a woman at the request of her family.

The woman, who is in her 30s, reportedly lives in Forsyth County, but was at the hotel when she overdosed, said Sheriff’s Cpl. Robin Regan.

She was unresponsive and initially did not appear to be breathing when Miller found her. According to an incident report, there was a used syringe on the nightstand.

When he found a “very faint pulse with occasional gasps for air,” Miller recognized the signs of a heroin overdose.

He administered Naloxene, or Narcan, which is a drug that can be given nasally or by an injection to immediately reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid-based prescription pill overdose.

The woman began to breathe more steadily after he gave her the Narcan and showed signs of responding to the drug, the report said. Medical personnel soon arrived to take her to an area hospital, where she is receiving treatment.

This marks the first time a deputy with the local sheriff’s office has used Narcan since it was bought a few months ago with drug seizure money.

Miller, who came to Forsyth from another law enforcement agency, has EMS and first responder experience, Regan said. He recently completed training to be equipped with Narcan.

“We are still aiming to get it to all our deputies,” Regan said. “Right now, we’re staging it so we try to have someone on every shift with it.”

Narcan began being placed with law enforcement agencies and drug prevention groups throughout Georgia after a 2014 law allowing its distribution.

The 911 medical amnesty law also allows people to call 911 if they are with someone who may be overdosing without fear of being arrested for using or possessing drugs.

The law was passed as an effort to combat a recent increase in overdose deaths due to heroin and pills, especially in young adults and teenagers. Its advocates included parents, educators, law enforcement personnel and friends who have lost someone to heroin.

“We can’t administer [Narcan] if we don’t know they need it,” Sheriff Duane Piper said at the county’s annual drug summit in October. “So kids have to call 911.”