Local law enforcement received Narcan use training this past month — and the timing could not have been more perfect.
On March 16, Shelton police officers Jesse Butwell and Caroline Moretti, in separate incidents, revived two individuals with the Narcan nasal spray, the first and only FDA-approved nasal form of naloxone for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose.
Police Lt. Robert Koslowsky said the first incident was about 3 p.m. that day, when officers were called to a one-vehicle accident on Shelton Avenue and Meadow Street.
“The officers found the male driver unconscious so they used the Narcan,” said Koslowsky. “Based on the investigation at the scene, it appeared [the driver] may be overdosing, so the officer [Butwell] used the Narcan. [The driver] appeared to wake up. It worked, and he was sent to the hospital.”
Koslowsky said Moretti responded, around 5 p.m. that same day, to a report of a person needing medical assistance in the area of Trap Fall Reservoir along Huntington Street. Koslowsky said the officers found an unconscious female in a parked vehicle.
“[Moretti] used the Narcan in that situation as well," said Koslowsky. “The person was revived and sent to the hospital for treatment.”
These saves resulted only days after the department completed Narcan use training. In that two-hour training — held by the Alliance for Preventive Wellness — a program of BHCare and Echo Hose Ambulance personnel — officers learned CPR as well as the background and use of the Narcan nasal spray.
Narcan nasal spray counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. Opioids include heroin, OxyContin, methadone, morphine, Percocet, fentanyl and vicodine. Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, according to law enforcement, it was developed for first responders, as well as family, friends and caregivers — with no medical training required.
Koslowsky said the opioid epidemic is not unique to Shelton, with the increase of reported addicts and overdoses increasing statewide and across the country. And with each member of the Shelton Police Department now trained, and carrying two Narcan nasal spray bottles at all times, Koslowsky said local law enforcement can be ready if first on the scene of such a potentially tragic call.
"On these calls, EMS is dispatched, but there were times that the police officers were there first, so we had to wait for EMS to use Narcan,” said Koslowsky. “This just allows us to provide this lifesaving technique if we do get there before EMS does.
“Using the spray is simple, and we learned that if you are not sure of it is an opioid overdose, just use the spray because it saves a person who is overdosing on opioids but it will not hurt a person suffering from another medical issue,” added Koslowsky.
Koslowsky said another important reason for police officers to not only be trained in Narcan nasal spray’s use but also have on their person comes with inadvertent exposure to fentanyl. Koslowsky said there have several reported instances across the country in which officers have been exposed to even a small amount of fentanyl that has caused the officer to fall unconscious.
“We carry Narcan to help citizens who are overdosing, but it also helps in cases where officers, citizens or other people inadvertently inhale, particularly fentanyl, and pass out. We will be able to help save the lives of everyone in these cases,” said Koslowsky.
Pamela Mautte, director of Alliance for Preventive Wellness, said the training begins by detailing how the opioid epidemic started.
“We want people to also learn to understand how people can develop an opioid use disorder,” said Mautte. “We want to make sure people in training use proper language and are not marginalizing or stigmatizing people that may have a substance use or opioid use disorder.”
Mautte said the instruction then focuses on "what Narcan does, how it works, how an opioid works in the brain, how Narcan works to reverse the opioid effect in brain and to teach how to identify an opioid overdose.”
The importance of law enforcement receiving Narcan training, according to Mautte, cannot be overstated since these officers are many times the first on a scene of an incident that may have an individual who could be overdosing.
These Narcan training sessions have been conducted in Shelton for some two years, and Patrick Lahaza, Echo Hose Ambulance Corps education and paramedic coordinator, said more than 500 Narcan kits have been distributed to first responders and community members in that time.
“The education is starting to change how people feel about use of Narcan and is helping to reduce the stigma of opioid epidemic,” said Mautte.
This education also includes safe storage and disposal of medications as well as disposal of unused or unwanted medications. Koslowsky said that research demonstrates that opioid addiction begins through use of prescription narcotics. And that is why Koslowky urges residents to watch for any misuse of prescriptions in the home and dispose of any extra pills.
The Shelton Police Department has a pill bottle disposal bin in its lobby of the Wheeler Road headquarters. People can come into the lobby 24 hours, seven days a week and dump the any type of prescribed medicines in the bin, no questions asked.
The Echo Hose Ambulance Training Center will host a Community Narcan/Suicide Prevention Out Reach Program on April 25 and May 23. The sessions run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the training center, 430 Coram Ave. For more information on training center programming, visit http://echohose.com/index.html