AURORA, Colo. (CNN) – Colorado health officials will continue their review of a program that will allow ketamine to be administered outside of hospital settings. The investigation was originally announced following the death of Elijah McClain in police custody.
The 23-year-old black man died in August 2019 after paramedics administered the strong anesthetic during a confrontation with police. A grand jury investigation into McClain’s death was announced earlier this month.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment announced its first review of the ketamine program last summer, about a year after McClain’s death, before “pausing activities, considering other research, to reassess the scope,” the agency said in a press release on Friday.
Without reviewing the individual cases, the CDPHE said it was evaluating approval for “preclinical ketamine use in Colorado and related outcomes at the statewide level.”
“This clearer scope allows us to conduct a review that broadly looks at the health outcomes of ketamine administration by local EMS providers,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of CDPHE. “We will focus on the entire program, not individual incidents where ketamine is used on the ground.”
Ketamine was used illegally as a club drug. The drug, which is mainly used as an anesthetic in hospitals, creates an intense high and dissociative effect.
RELATED: Aurora City Council Approves Temporary Ketamine Ban For First Aiders
EMS providers in Colorado require an exemption from the CDPHE to use ketamine in the field.
The drug may be given to patients “with a suspected diagnosis or excited delirium,” a condition doctors have described to CNN as a condition that causes a person to become so excited that they can move essentially to death.
McClain died after meeting the Aurora police
Paramedics administered ketamine to McClain after he was stopped by three White Aurora police officers one night in August 2019 while walking home from a supermarket.
A 911 caller reported a “suspect,” according to a police press release in which McClain “resisted contact with officers” before a fight broke out.
McClain can be heard in footage from an officer’s body camera telling the officers, “I’m an introvert, please respect the boundaries I speak.”
At some point you hear an officer say to another: “He just packed your gun buddy.” One officer tells McClain that if McClain continues to “play around” he will “take my dog out and bite you”.
The video shows an officer who wrestles McClain to the ground. A letter from the Adams County District Attorney said that an officer had placed McClain in a carotid chamber that was restricting blood flow to the brain. McClain briefly passed out, the letter said, but continued to fight after officers released the hold.
Paramedics came and administered ketamine, the letter said. McClain was rushed to hospital, but suffered a heart attack along the way and was pronounced brain dead three days later, the letter reads.
RELATED: Grand Jury Investigation Opened into Death of Elijah McClain
The coroner’s autopsy did not determine the cause of death, but found that “intense physical exertion and a narrow left coronary artery” contributed.
The report identified McClain’s history of asthma and the carotid artery, although the autopsy did not determine whether it contributed to McClain’s death. The concentration of ketamine in his system was at “therapeutic levels,” the report said.
The District Attorney declined to file criminal charges at the time, but the case caught renewed attention last summer following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
While protests raged across the country, demonstrations in the Denver suburbs focused on McClain and his family’s demands for justice, and Governor Jared Polis relied on Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to review the case.
Weiser announced this month that he will open a grand jury investigation into McClain’s death, “an investigative tool that can compel testimony and require documents and other relevant information.”
Posted by Dakin Andone, CNN
The CNN wire
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