First Overdose Reversal in Georgia

Trained last week, Holly Springs cop saved woman from overdose today

By Taylor West

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In the nine months since her daughter’s death, Holly Springs Lieutenant Tanya Smith has done more than grieve.

Smith was instrumental in the passage of legislation allowing drug overdose kits to be carried by non-medical personnel.

Trained last week, Holly Springs cop saved woman from overdose today photo
Holly Springs Lieutenant Tanya Smith (Holly Springs Police Department)

Trained last week, Holly Springs cop saved woman from overdose today photo
Taylor Smith (Special)

Last week her department became the first in the state to carry the naloxone kits and now it has paid off. Sergeant Nathan Ernst used it Wednesday morning to save a 24-year-old woman who was unconscious and experiencing seizures from an overdose.

Trained last week, Holly Springs cop saved woman from overdose today photo
Holly Springs Sergeant Nathan Ernst (Holly Springs Police Department)

“Six days after we implemented this program our first life is saved,” Smith said. “That was the personal satisfaction for me, and a completely selfish satisfaction, when I stood out there and watched that dad walk away from the ambulance and I knew that his daughter was coming home tonight.”

For Smith the victory was personal as well as professional.

Smith’s daughter, Taylor Smith, 20, died of drug-induced asthma in September 2013. Taylor Smith had reportedly been a heroin addict for two years and was trying to recover.

“This is what I worked so hard to get this program in place for — that not one other parent will have to go through what I went through,” Smith said.

Ernst and the entire department were given the kits and underwent overdose rescue training just last week.

“Prior to the training we would have just waited for the fire department and the ambulance to arrive on the scene,” Ernst said, noting previously the most police could do was administer CPR if the person was not breathing.

Smith said she is glad the naloxone kits are already helping other parents avoid going through the same thing she did.

“She survived today. There are no words to describe how wonderful that feels for those parents and I stood out there and hugged that dad and cried like it was my own daughter all over again,” Smith said.

The use of drugs such as naloxone has been a discussion in recent years following a rise in heroin use, both among families and friends of opiate users and in politics.

“We were stressing (in pushing legislation) that opiate overdoses are happening everywhere, in every demographic, in every neighborhood,” Smith said. “The elderly are overdosing. Children are overdosing.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in February the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show deaths from drug overdoses in 2010 more than doubled the number in 1999 — largely the result of opiate abuse.

As of April, 17 states had taken steps to make naloxone available, and more are giving kits to trained police officers.

The Holly Springs Police Department is the first in the state of Georgia to have this “wonderful tool” but Public Information Officer Sherron Conrad doubts it will stop there.

“Given today it’s probably going to take hold in the state of Georgia,” she said. “After today I believe it has a very bright future in this area.”

Smith said addicts will still face a long, hard struggle even after being saved, but now people like the young woman Wednesday and their families have another chance. The woman and others saved from overdoses will not be charged with drug-related crimes, according to police, as a result of the 911 Medical Amnesty Law.

“I think there is super satisfaction that there was something I could do for someone else that I couldn’t do for myself,” Smith said. “They say one life saved equals success and that’s what we are all feeling today.”