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Overdose

John Martin demonstrates how to administer Narcan at a training session in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force wants to recruit 18- to 25-year-olds in the fight against drug addiction and fatal overdoses.

Next week, the group will host a workshop that will train participants in administrating Narcan, a drug that thwarts opioid overdoses. Task force leaders say they hope to attract members of a young age group to attend because those individuals have the highest overdose statistics locally.

The workshop is on Wednesday, June 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Northport Public Library. This training session and hands-on workshop is hosted by the task force, and will be run by the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The training is easy to understand and free for anyone who registers.

“I want to equip the kids with the awareness and knowledge to battle this ongoing problem the youth today is dealing with,” Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said this week.

Narcan is a prescription drug that reverses an opioid overdose. An opioid describes drugs like heroin, morphine and oxycodone. Narcan cannot be used to get high and is not addictive. It also has no known negative side effects, so it is completely safe to administer this drug, even if there is uncertainty about a person having a drug overdose.

“The Northport [Village] Police Department has a 100 percent success rate for overdose victims when they have gotten to the scene in time,” Scott Norcott, the public relations coordinator for the task force, said in an interview.

In 2013 alone, there were 216 confirmed opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County, according to Ferrandino. In 2014, the number declined slightly to 167 deaths. More than half of the opiate deaths in 2013 were individuals in the 20-29 age group.

Ferrandino wants to focus on teaching kids not only how to administer the drug and the process of calling for help, but also the workings of the Good Samaritan laws. These laws protect the caller and the overdose victim from arrests for drug possession or being under the influence. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have varying policies that provide immunity from arrests for minor drug-law violations by people who help on the scene.

“I don’t want them to be scared to call 911 — that is a common fear — that they don’t want to get in trouble for being at the scene at all, so they become fearful of calling for help,” Ferrandino said.

The training session will include instructions on how to administer Narcan. Each participant will be given a prescription that allows him or her to carry and administer Narcan wherever they are, along with a free kit. New York State covers the costs of Narcan and the training.

Ferrandino was motivated to spread the word about Narcan to as many 18- to 25-year-olds as possible by a former student who graduated from Northport High School. When she was at college, a student overdosed at a party she was at, and she felt that if she had been trained in Narcan administration, she could have helped save the student’s life.

The task force has participated in many programs this year to try and spread awareness of the rising number of drug overdoses in town. Recovery, awareness and prevention week is an annual series of events throughout the Northport-East Northport school district with forums and events to help students learn how to avoid drugs and how to help friends who might be struggling with addiction.

Narcan training sessions will also be held in Hauppauge at the Suffolk County Office of Health Education in the North County Complex on Veterans Memorial Highway on June 15 and 29, and July 20.

“Narcan is really a Band-Aid, it’s a great one, but the endgame here is to get the kids to hear the facts, to smarten them up and see the dangers, so that one day we won’t need the Narcan training,” Norcott said.

First responders saved three adults who overdosed together on Monday afternoon, using an anti-overdose medication that is administered through the nose.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, 4th Precinct police officers Daniel Sable, David Vlacich and Vincent Liberato responded to a 911 call reporting multiple people had been found unconscious at a Lake Ronkonkoma home. When officers arrived at the Kirby Lane home at about 4:15 p.m., they found two women and a man unconscious in an upstairs bedroom.

The officers worked with Lake Ronkonkoma Fire Department rescue personnel to carry the trio out of the house, police said, and the LRFD members administered Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

The three victims — a 39-year-old female, a 43-year-old female and a 46-year-old male — regained consciousness, police said. They were listed in stable condition at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Suffolk officers revive two people days after department puts overdose-ending medicine into police cars

File photo

Jeff Reynolds recently attended a funeral in Huntington for a young woman, a heroin addict who had gotten clean but died of an overdose after a relapse. Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, said two weeks later, the young woman’s boyfriend also died from an overdose.

Drug use has become more and more of a problem on Long Island in recent years. According to a special grand jury report from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, there were 231 overdose deaths from controlled substances in Suffolk County last year.

Opioid painkillers accounted for 75 percent of them.

But an initiative to combat opioid overdoses — from drugs like heroin, Vicodin and Percocet — is already showing promise, just days after it was launched. Suffolk County Police Department’s Michael Alfieri, an officer in the 7th Precinct, responded to a call of an overdose in Mastic Beach last week. According to the police, Alfieri found a 27-year-old man unresponsive and not breathing, and revived him by intranasally administering Naloxone, an opioid blocker known by its brand name, Narcan. The officer also gave the man oxygen before he was transported to the hospital. That overdose victim survived.

Officers Thomas Speciale and David Ferrara revived a woman in Lake Ronkonkoma who had overdosed on heroin on Aug. 5. The 4th Precinct officers responded to a 911 call at 1:20 pm and found the 21-year-old woman in a parked car, unresponsive and barely breathing, police said. Speciale administered Narcan and Ferrara provided additional medical care before the woman was transported to the hospital for treatment.

The New York State Department of Health piloted a program that allows those in certain counties, including Suffolk, with basic life support training, such as volunteer emergency medical technicians, to administer Narcan. Previously, it was limited to those with advanced life support training.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) sponsored a bill, which the county Legislature adopted, that expanded this to include officers in the Suffolk County Police Department, many of whom have basic life support training. A police spokesperson said it is being piloted in the 4th, 6th and 7th Precincts and the Marine Bureau, and 267 officers have already been trained to administer the intranasal medicine.

“Our officers are first on the scene in virtually all medical emergencies,” Dr. Scott Coyne, SCPD’s chief surgeon and medical director, said in a phone interview. He said it is important that officers have resources like Narcan to treat people because “it’s really during those first critical minutes that they mean the difference between life and death, particularly in overdose situations.”

Last Monday was the first day the officers were on the street with Narcan, according to the police department. Alfieri saved the man who overdosed two days later, and Speciale and Ferrara saved the Lake Ronkonkoma woman on Sunday.

“There was one less mother grieving for her child,” Hahn said in a phone interview after the first incident. She expressed her hope that the program would save more lives in the future.

Reynolds said Narcan works by quickly surrounding opiate receptors, blocking the drug’s ability to access the brain. “The person will experience some withdrawal but the overdose will come to an immediate end.”

Other benefits of the medicine are that it’s inexpensive and there aren’t any negative consequences if it is administered to someone who has not overdosed on opioids, Reynolds said. Signs of an overdose include blue nail beds, blue lips, unconsciousness and the inability to remain upright.

Dr. Coyne said, “Undoubtedly this pilot program will be a great benefit to the citizens of the county and particularly it’s going to result in, I believe, many lifesaving events.” Dispatchers are receiving more and more calls about drug overdoses, he said, adding that 60 police cars now carry Narcan.

Other states have had success with similar programs. According to The Boston Globe, Narcan reversed more than 1,000 opioid overdoses in 12 Massachusetts cities between 2007 and 2011 through a pilot program that allowed substance abuse treatment centers to train people how to use the overdose antidote.

Dr. Coyne said the SCPD precincts piloting the Narcan program were selected because they appeared to have more overdoses. The Marine Bureau was chosen because it serves Fire Island, and the time it takes to transport someone to a hospital could be longer than in other places.

Dr. Coyne and Hahn both said they would like to see the local program expanded and Reynolds said Narcan “should be in every police car,” and even school nurses and parents of addicts should carry it.

For friends and family of those addicted to opioids, LICADD trains people to identify an overdose and administer Narcan through an injection into the leg — different from the police department’s aspirator — and sends trainees home with two vials of Narcan and two syringes.

Reynolds said the best way to prevent an overdose is to not use drugs in the first place, but that Narcan is an important measure in helping those struggling with addiction survive long enough to receive help.

He said Narcan “gives these kids a second shot.”