Registered nurse Babette Richter explains how to use Narcan (also known as Naloxone) as The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation hosts its first heroin overdose prevention training program at Summit Behavioral Health in West Windsor on Tuesday, December 16, 2014. The training session was held to educate parents and friends of opiate drug users on how to administer Naloxone to anyone suffering from an overdose, from the recognizing the first signs to injecting it into the thigh or arm. (Martin Griff | Times of Trenton)
WEST WINDSOR A group of 20 people — mostly on a strict first-name basis — kept shifting their focus between registered nurse Babette Richter and the tiny plastic bag in her palms containing two disposable syringes and 2 cc of Naloxone.”We believe anyone brought back from the brink of death has a chance for recovery,” Richter said told the group assembled at Summit Behavioral Health in West Windsor.
The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation, a newly formed nonprofit founded by Hamilton resident Paul Ressler, held its first training session Tuesday to educate family and friends of opiate drug users on how to administer Naloxone to anyone suffering from an overdose. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, combats the overdose caused by heroin, Oxycontin and other opiates. Narcan use in overdose cases was approved statewide earlier this year for police and emergency responders after a pilot program in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Richter said it is crucial to also make Narcan readily available to parents, siblings and friends of those struggling with drug addiction, and train them how to use the antidote.“We’re going to get Naloxone in people’s hands. It’s great the police have it—they tend to get there before the EMTs,” Richter said. “It’s good to have it in your hands, because you’re there before the police.”
In many cases, the overdosed drug user comes to his or her senses within minutes of Narcan being administered, often jarringly spurred awake.“Good morning. You just woke up from the dead,” one person in Richter’s training video said to a friend who had just woken up from an overdose after a Naloxone treatment. Each attendee of the training session left with a new overdose prevention kit, with 2 cc’s of Naloxone, disposable syringes and instructions, provided free of charge by. The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation. For many drug users, and their loved ones charged with trying to save them, Narcan has been a life saver, said Ressler, who created TOPAC with the sole purpose of getting it into the hands most likely to need it.
Ressler has been a tireless advocate for overdose prevention since his son, Corey, died of a lethal “drug cocktail” in 2010. And while the Overdose Prevention Act, signed into law last year, allows first responders to be equipped with Naloxone, Ressler envisions it being widely available to anyone who knows they are or are living with a drug user.“My son’s loss drives me, and I don’t think anyone should get in my way,” Ressler said. “I’ve learned that it takes hard work with love.” Richter walked members of the training session through the steps of identifying an overdose from “red flags” like nodding off in the middle of conversations and extremities — particularly fingertips and lips — turning blue.
More important than the use of Naloxone itself is rescue breathing throughout the whole process, trying to put oxygen back into a drug user’s bloodstream and eventually the brain, Richter said. If the overdosed person isn’t responding, that’s where Naloxone comes in: Richter walked the crowd through the step-by-step process of using an injection, or nasal spray version, of the drug.“We want you to be comfortable with what you’re doing,” she said, demonstrating the correct way to fill the syringe with 1 cc of the drug. “You pull back that plunger until you get every drop of this out.” The presentation hit home for Hamilton resident Mark Manning: In August, his 24-year-old son, Christopher, died of an overdose in their home.
Christopher likely died overnight, before anyone had woken up for work or school the next morning, but Manning couldn’t help but wonder if things would have happened differently had Naloxone been available.“We didn’t have that shot in the township on Aug. 5. But what if I found him like this,” Manning said, referring to the overdose state shown in a training video.
“What could we have done differently? The shot is important.” Ressler has long argued the importance of “the shot.” While the state Attorney General’s office has permitted police departments to carry the drug, it’s still on a department-by-department — if not officer-by-officer — basis, Richter said. Ressler said some police departments have been slow to make Narcan kits available after Gov. Chris Christie announced the statewide expansion of the pilot program in June during a press conference at the Trenton Rescue Mission.
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office provided 600 Narcan kits to police departments in November. Ressler encouraged those at the training session to make sure their hometown police department has started equipping every officer Narcan. For more information, visit www.overdosepreventionagency.com
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