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Posted under: News

Death Of 20-Year-Old Ballet Dancer Highlights Urgent Need For All Cops To Carry Medicine That Can Treat Overdoses

The parents of Jade Kothe believe police could have saved her on June 28 if they had the lifesaving drug Narcan.

More than a month after the June 28 death of her daughter, Lana Rae is still searching for answers about what took place that night. 

Jade Kothe was filled with dreams from her childhood and had a promising future, her mom recalled. 

"She was sweet and witty, and a little bit shy. Her hair was big, and her heart was the biggest. I admired how she made friends so easily.  Even as a small child she was always dancing around at home in the living room and even in the middle of eating meals. She loved to perform original dances for our family," Rae told Blavity.

Kothe was a ballet dancer who attended Baltimore School for the Arts and Annapolis High School. She was later accepted to top dance companies but was indecisive about her options and decided to take a break to enjoy her youth for a bit.

Her plans for opening her own dance studio were cut short by her battle with drugs and depression.

"I think that her personality and demeanor allowed her to be able to hide her feelings very well. I never knew about her issues until she was around 17 or 18, and even then it was only in slight mentions," her mom said, reflecting on Kothe's struggles with depression and anxiety. 

"A couple of months ago I had a conversation with her, and she told me she had depression and anxiety as far back as she could think. She recalled being so anxious and terrified of starting a class at a new school that she would go home and cry in her room all of the time," Rae added.

After she turned 18 and got her license, Rae said her daughter had packed a bag and left home in the middle of the night.

"She left a note telling us not to worry about her, that she was depressed and just didn’t want to live at home anymore. Of course, I was worried. Her father and I had no idea where she went or with who. We called friends of hers that we knew, and no one knew where she was," Rae said.

After deciding not to report the car stolen out of fear of Kothe being arrested and having a criminal record, Rae received a call from her daughter months after her departure.

Kothe told her parents that she was living with her boyfriend who they had not met. Rae said that Kothe had been introduced to drugs by that point and was using to self-medicate for anxiety and depression. 

Desperate to get their daughter some help, Kothe's parents sent to her a behavioral health facility before she was transferred to a drug treatment center, The Baltimore Sun reports

Months after being sent to Florida for treatment, the 20-year-old tragically passed away from a heroin overdose in Palm Beach in June, but Rae believes more could have been done to save her daughter's life.

"All I know is that my daughter lived one mile away from the hospital, it was 33 minutes from the time 911 was called to the time she was pronounced dead, and yet she died outside in the yard. If Narcan was administered in a timely manner, it would have saved her," Rae said.

While officers can be seen desperately trying to revive an unconscious Kothe in a video shared with Blavity from the West Palm Beach Police Department, it was too late. There was a more than three-minute lapse in time between the police officers' arrival and the arrival of paramedics from the West Palm Beach Fire Rescue who administered Narcan, a brand of the narcotic naloxone.

Those few minutes may have been critical. 

"I do know that West Palm Beach police do not carry Narcan, which [is] another issue that needs to be addressed. It’s only carried by the EMT, which weren’t the first responders to the call. We are currently waiting on more details to put the pieces together," Rae said. 

In addition to body camera footage, Sgt. Dave Lefont shared three police reports with Blavity showing Kothe’s life had been saved when paramedics administered Naloxone during her overdoses on June 5 and June 25. Although it is not on the police report, Lefont confirmed that the paramedics did give Kothe two doses of naloxone while trying to save her on June 28, and in the video, they can be heard preparing to use it.

But he defended the police officers' actions and explained why police were the first to arrive at the scene. 

"Our officers are not paramedics or trained in the use of naloxone. Hence, they do not carry it, nor do we have access to it. Dispatch for the fire department is handled by the county and not the city, so we are dispatched for their safety. The medics were dispatched as they are seen in the video," Lefont said.

Kothe's passing illustrates why a number of groups have called for all police officers to have naloxone, especially for calls they know are related to drug overdoses. 

There have been a number of studies explaining the reasons why police officers should carry naloxone. A 2014 study from the American Journal of Public Health examined a Massachusetts program to equip all police officers naloxone, and researchers believed the initiative proved itself promising. 

"The National Drug Control Strategy has called for equipping first responders to recognize and manage overdoses since 2010, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy has stated that naloxone 'should be in the patrol cars of every law enforcement professional across the nation,'" the study said. 

"Although these first responders in most states are not authorized to administer naloxone, this is rapidly changing; in 2013, 5 states changed law or policy to permit EMTs to administer naloxone, bringing the total up to 13 states," the study noted, adding that the "initial experience in several Massachusetts communities with first responder naloxone provides models for other jurisdictions to permit agency medical directors to use their clinical judgment to expand naloxone administration to nonparamedic first responders as medically appropriate."

After the study was released, more police departments began equipping their officers with naloxone. By 2018, at least 41 states had implemented naloxone programs, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

But the main barrier cities and police departments have cited is cost. A 2019 article from Governing stated nearly 2,500 police departments have implemented some kind of naloxone program out of the country's 18,000 police agencies.

While some nasal versions of the drug cost about $75, others can cost as much as $4,500. 

"More and more departments are carrying every month but it hasn’t reached a saturation point,” Robert Childs, former executive director of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, told Governing.

The group keeps a running list of how many of the nation's police departments have officers carry naloxone. 

The CDC reported that between 1999 and 2018, nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses. The Obama administration worked for years to push police departments and states to adopt programs promoting the usage of naloxone by police officers. 

“Naloxone can save lives. Because police are often the first on the scene of an overdose, the Obama administration strongly encourages local law enforcement agencies to train and equip their personnel with this lifesaving drug,” Gil Kerlikowske, former director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement to Reuters in 2014.

Sgt. Rusty Starnes of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama told WBRC oftentimes officers who arrive on the scene first and are not equipped with naloxone are put in the "position to either respond or just stand there with our hands in our pockets waiting on the paramedics to get there."

But since more police departments have started carrying naloxone, there have been dozens of stories of police officers saving people from opioid overdoses. Just last month, police in Texas saved three people's lives using naloxone within a one-week period. Officers in Arlington, Virginia, have saved nine lives this year alone. 

But recently, some police departments have told their officers to stop carrying and administering the medication due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business Insider reported in April that there has been an increase in emergency overdose calls in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, New York and Texas since the onset of the pandemic.

Rae is now left with dozens of questions about her daughter's death that she hopes to get the answer to as she reflects on her charm.

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