Ernst became the first police officer in Georgia to save a life with naloxone — an opiate overdose-reversing drug — after he found a 24-year-old woman unconscious and having seizures in the throes of an overdose, said Sherron Conrad, agency spokeswoman.
The sergeant just learned to give the drug — administered in a nasal spray — last Wednesday afternoon, when Holly Springs Police began equipping officers with naloxone, becoming Georgia’s first police department to do so.
Ernst found the woman on the floor in a Morgan Falls subdivision home at about 9 a.m. From speaking to witnesses and observing her, Ernst said “all the signs were there” that naloxone should be given — and it quickly paid off.
“The seizures stopped within the first minute or so,” he said during an interview at the police department later Wednesday. “(She) appeared to be more stable. She became verbal, but she hadn’t become fully conscious.”
The woman was taken to Northside Hospital-Cherokee and given further treatment. As of Wednesday afternoon, she was in stable condition, police said.
Ernst took little credit and said he was thankful for the work of Lt. Tanya Smith and Chief Ken Ball to start the program. Smith also pushed state legislators this year to pass the law allowing police officers to give naloxone, after losing her daughter to drug addiction. Previously, only emergency medical workers could give the drug.
Smith recently took a new job at Kennesaw State University to start a victim service department there and she said she didn’t expect to still be at the police department to see her work come to fruition.
“I certainly didn’t expect it in six days,” said Smith, who leaves for KSU on Friday.
When she heard the call about the woman overdosing Wednesday morning, Smith raced to the house.
By the time she arrived, the woman had already been loaded in an ambulance to Northside Hospital-Cherokee, but it was still an emotional experience.
“Her dad came up and hugged me and I started crying,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon.
Ernst also talked with the woman’s parents. He said they seemed grateful and “like they were very concerned parents.”
Though police say Ernst gave those parents a reason to be grateful, he remained modest when recounting the experience and about his distinction as the first officer in Georgia to administer the drug.
“You know, I guess my main concern was that, hopefully, this person is going to recover well and be able to move on in life,” he said with a smile. “For anybody to get a second opportunity to get things straightened out, that makes it all worth it to us.”