5:48 P.M.: This story was updated with additional information from the city.

The El Paso Police Department has more than tripled the amount of Narcan kits available to officers, Assistant Chief Zina Silva said Tuesday.

During a presentation to the El Paso City Council, Silva said there are now almost 300 Narcan kits deployed in the field — a significant increase from the 85 kits that were available as of December 2021, according to internal emails obtained for a recent El Paso Matters investigation of Narcan accessibility at the EPPD.

“The El Paso Police Department is a first responder and oftentimes we do get there before the Fire Department,” Silva told the council. All Fire and Medical Services personnel carry Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication.

“We know that it’s a responsibility for us to make sure that whenever possible we also want to save lives,” Silva continued.

The police department acquired 184 additional Narcan kits in March, and is in the process of ordering more, city spokesperson Laura Cruz Acosta said in an email to El Paso Matters.

Narcan is increasingly being used by law enforcement nationwide as a way to respond to the opioid epidemic. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office implemented a new Narcan policy in October 2021, requiring all officers to undergo training on how to use the medication every two years.

An El Paso County sheriff’s deputy holds a dispenser with a dose of Narcan — all Sheriff’s Office patrol officers carry Narcan, but the same cannot be said for patrol officers with the EPPD. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

El Paso has seen dramatic increases in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, fueled in part by the rise in use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

“We know that opioid deaths have been increasing throughout the United States and El Paso has not been skipped or saved,” Silva told the council.

EPPD officers saved a life using Narcan as recently as March 16, Silva said – they administered four doses of Narcan to the person, who made a full recovery and was released from the hospital that same day.

City Rep. Alexsandra Annello urged the EPPD to make the medication available to all officers. There are more than 1,000 officers in the department. The sheriff’s office has 350 Narcan kits on hand for their 288 officers.

“Help us understand how we can get that number up, how we can make sure that this is available to everyone,” Annello said. She said the council has begun to have conversations about the need for additional Narcan.

Annello also asked for clarification on the amount of Narcan regularly carried by officers in the field, which Silva said she would provide council individually.

Feature photo: EPPD units respond to a call. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

René Kladzyk reports on wide-ranging issues impacting the lives of El Pasoans. She also performs music as Ziemba. René can be reached at rkladzyk@elpasomatters.org. Follow her on Twitter @ziembavision.