Facing a resurgence in heroin overdoses and use, city and state officials are arming NYPD cops with a life-saving opioid antidote.
In the coming months, 19,500 patrolling officers citywide will be given naloxone kits and trained to use the drug to instantly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Through a separate pilot program on Staten Island, police used the same drug to save two lives in the last few days.
"You cannot prosecute your way out of a drug epidemic," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Tuesday.
"You cannot arrest your way out of it either," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton added.
Kits with the drug will be funded with about $1.2 million from the attorney general's Community Overdose Prevention Program, which has also financed kits for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority police force.
The program is part of comprehensive strategy -- including drug busts and public information campaigns -- to combat heroin's resurgence. Some of the first officers to be given the naloxone kits will be in precincts with the most overdose issues, Bratton said.
Staten Island and Manhattan are among the top 10 counties in the state for the number of opioid-related hospitalizations per 1,000 residents, Schneiderman said.
Citywide, heroin-related overdose deaths increased 84 percent between 2010 and 2012 after four years of decline, Schneiderman said.
Officials attributed the increase to cheaper and stronger heroin on the market.Officials consider northern Manhattan and the Bronx among national hubs for distribution and importation of heroin.
Though he could provide no explanation, Schneiderman said the stigma once attached to the drug seems to have vanished.
"Kids view this as a party drug," Schneiderman said. "Where 20, 30, 40 years ago, people who like to drink and party or whatever, they would never think of touching heroin."
Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders