Plano Police Officer Ross Baxter found the Plano resident unconscious in an alleyway behind his own home. He was gasping for breath, and had a faint pulse. The welfare check Officer Baxter had been dispatched to investigate had turned serious. The man was obviously experiencing signs of a possible narcotics overdose.  

A five-year veteran of the force, Officer Baxter had been trained to deal with overdose situations like this one. Without hesitation, he grabbed his NARCAN overdose repellent nose spray and saved the man’s life. 

On Monday, he received the Lifesaving Award for his actions.

Plano Police Chief Ed Drain honoring Officer Ross Baxter / Courtesy of Plano police

“Officer Baxter’s quick and decisive actions were based on the preservation of life without regard to the quality or circumstances that led to the situation itself,” Plano Police Chief Ed Drain announced Monday afternoon at an award ceremony for Officer Baxter. “It is a testament to the professionalism and compassion Officer Baxter displays on a routine basis for the citizens he serves.”  

Overdoses can happen whether you’re taking an illicit drug or a prescribed one. In light of the opioid epidemic that was once gripping America — and still is in some areas of the country — the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a statement online

“I, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, VADM Jerome Adams, am emphasizing the importance of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life.

“BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE.”

NARCAN is the first nasal spray form of naloxone. It is FDA approved, and designed for the community and ready to use. No needles, and inhalation is not required. According to its website, the NARCAN nasal spray also requires no special training.

But the makers of NARCAN warn: “NARCAN® Nasal Spray is not a substitute for emergency medical care. Always get help immediately, even if the person wakes up, because he/she may relapse into respiratory depression. The use of NARCAN® may result in symptoms of acute opioid withdrawal. Results may vary.”

Plano police have been carrying NARCAN for about four years now. All patrol officers carry and are trained in its usage, according to David Tilley, spokesperson for the Plano police.  “Any officer that carries the product is required to go through the training,” Tilley says. 

The training prepares officers for situations that may arise when deploying NARCAN nasal spray. They also get to practice using it on a dummy.

NARCAN is so effective the Texas Department of Public Safety distributed NARCAN kits to every DPS patrol officer in April 2019. “The reason why we’re getting this Narcan canisters is due to the increase in we’re seeing an increase in overdoses we’re seeing with fentanyl and opioids,” Texas DPS Lt. Bryan Witt told Channel 11 KCBD in Lubbock.

But the NARCAN isn’t just for people like the Plano resident who was discovered overdosing on a drug. It’s also for officers who have to deal with the deadly fentanyl, which has been flowing into Texas from China and Mexico for a few years now. The opioid is about 100 times more potent than morphine, and it doesn’t take much to send someone into an overdose. 

“The chance of exposure when we’re dealing with these people on fentanyl is becoming greater and greater,” Lt. Witt explained. “Because not only do you have to ingest it, but you can also by holding the fentanyl in your hands with sweaty palms. You can actually get it through your pores. And experience an overdose.”  

First responders across the state have been trained in NARCAN’s usage. It is also available at pharmacies if the pharmacist has obtained a certificate from a Texas-accredited course, provided by an Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education-approved provider in coordination with the Texas Pharmacy Association. (For more information about it, click here.)

On Tuesday, Plano police shared the news of Officer Baxter’s recognition on the NextDoor app for Plano and posted:

“I want to thank our city leaders. We have had numerous lives saved by our officers using NARCAN and tourniquets. It was our city leaders that approved our officers to carry these items. Providing us with these tools has proven to be so important to the preservation of life in our community.”   

Christian McPhate

Christian McPhate is the managing editor of Local Profile. He has been working as a journalist for more than a decade. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including the Dallas Morning News,...