BRUNSWICK, N.Y. -- State Senator Kathy Marchione and Catholic Charities Care Coordination services recently presented three, free training sessions on how to properly administer naloxone, better known as Narcan, the life-saving drug used on persons who have overdosed while waiting for emergency medical personnel. Each person in attendance received a free Narcan kit along with a prescription in his or her name.
Marchione said every forum she has held has been either near or over capacity.
"I think that speaks for itself of the need for people to have training on Narcan," said Marchione.
Marchione said since 1996, there have been 10,000 reported cases of naloxone saving lives and believes many more were unreported. The senator has served on the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, which she says has passed a number of laws to try to combat the epidemic.
"It appears to heroin has no socioeconomic boundaries," she said.
Those attending the forums were shown how to administer the intranasal drug, which facilitators said should be done after calling 911. There are no risks of naloxone interacting negatively with other drugs, and no harm if naloxone is used on someone who is not overdosing.
Advanced medical care is still required after the drug is administered, as naloxone only works for 30 to 90 minutes, helping the victim to breathe. Once the effects wear off, overdose may continue and eventually lead to death.
One important issue discussed in the training -- unknown to many in attendance -- was the state’s Good Samaritan Law, passed in 2012. The law protects anyone calling to report an overdose, or anyone who may be at the scene of an overdose, for being charged and convicted of drug crimes up to and including a class A-2 felony. Underage drinking is also included under the law, designed to eliminate barriers which may prevent people for calling for help.
"Sometimes, with law enforcement, the word hasn’t filtered down to every officer, so sometimes people can be arrested, and even that’s a barrier, even if they weren’t chargedŠnobody wants to spend a night in jail," said Keith Brown. executive director of Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services.
While Catholic Charities began the initiative four years ago, Brown said the program got off to a slow start.
The group provides training to different groups of all sizes and, after last week’s sessions, will have given out approximately 1,500 prescriptions.
Brown said when the programs first began, people in some areas questioned the need for the training sessions.
"You’ve seen over the last couple years, this is in every community," he said. "If people have a family member struggling with addiction, they know it’s not as simple as saying ‘just get treatment.’"
Brown said he often hears comments from people who think Narcan could be used as a safety net, for users to "push the envelope," and said in reality, the concern is nonexistent.
"Nobody wants to have Narcan used on them," he said. "There’s not a person I’ve ever talked to, and no evidence to suggest that anyone’s ever used this as a type of safety valve to push the envelope. You go into withdrawal, which is the worst thing someone with an opioid dependency can go through. The last thing they want is to feel like that."
Catholic Charities hosts walk-in training sessions every Monday at 5 p.m. at 100 Slingerland St., Albany, and will also hold scheduled training sessions for groups, families and individuals.