HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – As the number of people dying from heroin overdose skyrockets, a town on Long Island is fighting back by training public safety officers to use a life-saving tool.
The town of Hempstead is joining forces with South Nassau Communities Hospital to develop a program to train 30 officers in the use of Narcan, a heroin-overdose reversal agent.
Dr. Joshua Kugler, who chairs the Nassau County Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee, says this training will target those who are not certified emergency medical technicians.
“Someone who could just identify the signs and symptoms and provide a very safe, effective drug to temporize this problem and potentially, save lives,” he explains.
Kugler says the training initiative is being modeled on programs that have been implemented in other communities around New York State.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2001 to 2013 the nation saw a five-fold increase in the number of heroin overdose deaths.
As heroin overdose deaths mount across New York, a Long Island hospital is partnering with public officials to train town public safety officers to administer life-saving medication. Comments by Dr. Josh Kugler, chair of the Nassau County Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee; and John Coppola, executive director, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State. Image available: Photo of drug paraphernalia.
John Coppola, who heads the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers of New York State, says overdose is a problem in every corner of the state, and programs such as the one being developed in Hempstead are critical.
“Narcan is saving lives, there’s no question about that,” he stresses. “And to the extent that Narcan could be widely available in emergency vehicles, I think, is really very important.”
Experts say the heroin on the streets today is very cheap and very pure, and its availability is causing significant problems with addiction, especially among young people.
Kugler says the goal of training programs like the one in Hempstead is to not allow any more unnecessary deaths by heroin overdose.
“This is real, true public health,” he states. “This is not only public health in the sense of understanding it, but applying it.”
The town of Hempstead has also increased funding to heroin recovery and intervention programs.
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