Polk County Sheriff's Office logo

Some people may not realize this, but law enforcement officers respond to a fair amount of medical calls — especially here in Polk County where we answer 9-1-1 and dispatch not just for law enforcement, but also for Polk County Fire Rescue.

There are times where deputies arrive at the scene before paramedics and we are trained to provide aid to people in medical crises. We also investigate deaths to determine whether or not they are medical, natural, suspicious or suicides.

Unfortunately, we are seeing an uptick in overdose-related deaths.

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, and we wanted to acknowledge this very real problem that we have encountered 46 times so far this year.

As cops, one of the things we can do about this issue is arrest those responsible for selling the poisons that kill people – but as first responders, we try to educate families and caregivers about the signs and dangers of drug addiction before the drugs prove fatal.

We know one thing — drug dealers are only concerned about making money, they don’t care about how drugs ruin people’s lives. Thankfully, Florida legislators passed a law in October of 2017 encompassing the sale of heroin laced with fentanyl into the first-degree murder statute. We have charged drug dealers with murder in every case where we’ve been able to do so.

Here’s what you can do to help if you suspect someone has ingested too much of a prescription drug, illegal drug, or alcohol:

Don’t assume someone is asleep if you can’t get a response. Sometimes it can take hours for someone who has overdosed to die – don’t wait.

Call an ambulance. People are often reluctant to call an ambulance for fear of police involvement or concern about the cost.

Know the signs: Having a seizure; Experiencing a severe headache, chest pain or breathing difficulties; Extreme paranoid, agitated or confused behavior

Another key sign is unusual snoring or gurgling that indicates someone is having problems breathing.

If you need us, please call us – dial 9-1-1. Our response can be the difference between life and death.

Grady Judd is the Sheriff of Polk County. Learn more about Judd and the Polk County Sheriff's Office at polksheriff.org.