By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK, May 27 (Reuters) - New York City police will begin carrying large amounts of anti-opiate drugs in an effort to combat a recent spike in heroin deaths, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.
Opiate overdoses killed more than 2,000 New York residents in 2011, more than double the number in 2004, state records show. Across the United States, the number of fatal opiate overdoses increased 45 percent from 2006-2010.
"This program will literally save lives," New York Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement.
Some 19,500 officers with the New York Police Department - the nation's largest police force - will receive kits with the opiate antidote drug naloxone, which can instantly restore breathing in people who have overdosed, Schneiderman's office said.
The $1.7 million needed to purchase the naloxone kits for NYPD officers will come from the attorney general's Community Overdose Prevention Program, which is funded by money seized from drug dealers and other convicts, the attorney general's office said.
The kits, costing about $60 each, contain two pre-filled syringes of naloxone, two atomizers for nasal use and sterile gloves. They have a shelf life of two years.
It was not immediately clear when the program will begin. It expands on a smaller pilot program used by NYPD on Staten Island, which resulted in a handful of overdose reversals, the attorney general's office said.
More than 150 police departments around the state have applied to receive naloxone kits since April and most have been approved, Schneiderman said. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)