BALDWIN — The Lake County Sheriff's Department is getting training on a new resource to help combat drug overdoses in the community.

The substance is called Naloxone, a treatment which is getting increasing support from medical, substance abuse prevention and law enforcement groups around the country. It is administered though either an injection or nasal spray and has a high success rate at saving people suffering from an opiate overdose.

Project Red, a group which hasworked to improve health, reduce community risk and prevent HIV since 1998, is the organization helping teach police and sheriff departments how to administer Naloxone. Steve Alsum, the executive director of Project Red, led two classes for Lake County Sheriff's deputies this week as to the proper usage of Naloxone.

"Project Red addresses HIV, hepatitis and overdoses," explained Alsum. "In Grand Rapids, as part of that mission, we've been training law enforcement personnel and other individuals with Naloxone to combat overdoses. So far there have been 275 confirmed lives saved in Grand Rapids thanks to these efforts. We want to train more law enforcement officials to improve those numbers in a wider area."

The project is being aided by West Michigan Community Mental Health which funds substance abuse treatment efforts throughout Western Michigan to increase public safety.

"Often police and sheriffs are the first ones on the scene of an emergency," said Josh Snyder, a WMCMH team leader. "In the case of an opiate overdose, a person can be close to death. With Naloxone in the the patrol cars with them, law enforcement officers can very possibly save lives."

Naloxone works by removing the opiates from the receptors in the brain and temporarily filling those receptors itself. One of the most notable aspects of Naloxone is it has no negative side effects, nor any adverse results if administered to someone not suffering an overdose. There are even cases of paramedics administering Naloxone before they even are sure if their patient took opiates.

Drug overdose is the highest cause of accidental death in the U.S., with opiate drugs being the most often abused. While some opiates include illegal drugs such as heroin, the most common are prescription substances like oxycontin, vicodin or morphine. Naloxone is effective against them all.

Although Naloxone has existed since the 1970s, there has been a recent push for it to become more widely available, particularly to law enforcement groups. Naloxone training programs have been successful at lowering the number of overdoses in communities in several states including Michigan. It is a prescription substance, but is legal to own or administer by members of the public.

Law enforcement officials are legally allowed to administer Naloxone in any situation in which they believe someone may be suffering from an opiate overdose so long as the official has taken a training course such as the one the Lake County Sheriff's personnel took. The kits are now present in many Lake County Sheriff vehicles.

"I think anything we can put in our cars to increase public safety is something we should be doing," said Lake County Sheriff Dennis Robinson. "I think of these classes the same as CPR training. It can very possibly save lives in Lake County."