Public encouraged to take Narcan training

A quick spray could save a life
Pam Monson
“It’s like first-aide for your community. Take advantage of it, it’s offered free of charge. They’ll be able to have the Naloxone and save a life... This is about saving lives.” Dr. Kathleen Burke, Director, Will County Executive Substance Use Initiative

    Who would have thought a quick stop at a convenience store in Coal City would have turned out that way? Wilmington Coalition program coordinator Deborah Tomey and her son helped save the life of a young man who had overdosed in the store’s restroom. She knows such events are becoming increasingly more common, and that few people could help while waiting for first responders to arrive.
    The Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community, in partnership with Will County Executive Larry Walsh’s Substance Use Initiatives, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is offering a free training session on the administration of Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan. Narcan is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of the drugs. Each participant will leave with two, 4-mg doses of Narcan nasal spray.
    Dr. Kathleen Burke, director of the Substance Use Initiative, will give the training.  Since receiving instructor training three years ago, Burke has been educating first responders throughout Will County about the signs of a drug overdose and what actions to take. Last month, she held a Narcan training here for bartenders.
    Substance Use Initiatives was awarded a five-year, $122,500 per year grant from SAMHSA, administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services, that will be used to increase the number of people who are trained to deliver Narcan, including people who work with high-risk individuals, people whose family members or loved ones have an addiction problem, active users and others.
    “The purpose of the training is so people carry the life-saving antidote with them at all times, and understand that it is a non-addictive, benign material; it does not change the addiction, it just stops the opioid from preventing people from breathing,” Dr. Burke said.
    Overdoses frequently occur in bathrooms; in pharmacies, libraries, fast food restaurants and convenience stores; and happen at any time of the day. They often result in death. Will County is starting to see a lot of opioid blends that make the drugs significantly more potent — and deadly. The Will County coroner’s office recorded 76 heroin-related deaths in 2016. So far this year, there have been 27.
    “Because the epidemic has gotten so large, particularly in the Wilmington and Braidwood area, it’s really important that the more people who have Narcan, the more people who, if an overdose occurs, would be able to use it,” she added. “The more people who are trained ... the more likely we won’t have another death. That’s the whole point, to give people an opportunity to continue to live and to get well through treatment.”
    Several weeks ago, Tomey said, a young woman overdosed in the Children’s Memorial Park in Northcrest.
    “People saw that in the park happening, they had to wait for the first responders to get there. Had somebody had that spray on them, they could have administered that right away to that person,” Tomey said.
    If Narcan is administered and it’s later determined that the individual was not overdosing, the drug will do no harm. The Food and Drug Administration approved Naloxone in 1971 as Narcan. It was commonly used to bring surgical patients out from under the effects of anesthesia. It is now available at pharmacies, and can be billed to insurance companies and Medicaid, whether medication is for the covered individual or not.
    “The reason for that is that you might have a family member who is at risk and you’ve chosen to be prepared in the same way you would carry an EpiPen if you have a family member who was at risk for a reaction,” Dr. Burke said.
    Tomey said that although some would argue that administering a dose of Narcan just enables a drug abuser to continue chasing a high, every time it’s administered a life is saved.
    “Addiction is a medical disease. It creates compulsive behavior, regardless of the consequences. Some people, if they die and are brought back, that’s enough of a consequence to have them seek treatment and move into recovery,” Dr. Burke added.  
    Dr. Burke encourages residents to be trained, regardless of whether they think they’ll use the training.
    “It’s like first-aide for your community. Take advantage of it, it’s offered free of charge. They’ll be able to have the Naloxone and save a life... This is about saving lives,” she concluded.
    The training will be held Thursday, June 29, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Wilmington Moose Lodge, 32050 S. West River Road. Individuals interested in taking the training need to RSVP by calling the Coalition at 815-476-1660, so that the trainer can bring enough doses of Narcan for all participants.