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Am J Public Health. 2015 Aug;105(8):1530-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302638. Epub 2015 Jun 11.

Engaging Law Enforcement in Overdose Reversal Initiatives: Authorization and Liability for Naloxone Administration.

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Derek Carr and Corey S. Davis are with the Network for Public Health Law-Southeastern Region, Carrboro, NC. Jessica K. Southwell is with the North Carolina Institute for Public Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Leo Beletsky is with the Northeastern University School of Law and Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Boston, MA.


Opioid overdose is reversible through the timely administration of naloxone, which has been used by emergency medical services for decades. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) are often the first emergency responders to arrive at an overdose, but they are not typically equipped with naloxone. This is rapidly changing; more than 220 law enforcement agencies in 24 states now carry naloxone. However, rollout in some departments has been hampered by concerns regarding officer and agency liability. We systematically examined the legal risk associated with LEO naloxone administration. LEOs can be authorized to administer naloxone through a variety of mechanisms, and liability risks related to naloxone administration are similar to or lower than those of other activities in which LEOs commonly engage.

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