Norwich city employees train to administer Narcan

Norwich — More than a dozen city employees and city officials took part in the second round of training to administer the opioid overdose-reversing drug Narcan on Thursday, each receiving a two-dose packet of the drug they hope they never have to use.

“I think with this epidemic, no matter where you’re at, what community you’re in, it can happen,” said Richard Shuck, city zoning enforcement officer, who took the training Thursday. “I think it’s going to become more commonplace,” he added about the effort to train more people to administer Narcan.

Norwich Youth and Family Services received a $7,500 grant from Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut in July to train 100 volunteers in how and when to use the overdose-reversing drug called naloxone, under the brand name Narcan. City Manager John Salomone had asked the agency to conduct the training after learning that Otis Library Director Robert Farwell had administered the life-saving drug just days after he had received training under a previous grant.

Angela Duhaime, transition manager for the regional behavioral health organization SERAC, conducted the training, which was held at City Hall, and gave attendees an overview of the opioid crisis in the state and in eastern Connecticut. Norwich is leading the region in heroin overdose deaths per capita, she said.

Opioid overdose deaths have been on the rise in the state, jumping from 723 in 2015 to 1,038 in 2017. Of those, 122 were in New London and Windham counties, with 82 in New London County. The age range was from 20 to 65, with the average age of 42.5 years, Duhaime said. She said 88 percent of victims were non-Hispanic, and 75 percent were male, although the number of female overdose deaths is rising.

During the training, participants learned the signs of opioid overdose, including blue lips, shallow breathing, unresponsiveness and gurgling. The first step is to call 911, Duhaime emphasized. Then the person should attempt to revive the victim by shaking, shouting and even inflicting pain by rubbing knuckles hard against the person’s sternum.

If those efforts fail, the person should use the Narcan nasal spray dose, supporting the person’s head at the back of the neck with one hand, tipping the victim’s head back and shooting the entire single-dose Narcan nasal spray into one nostril. Afterward, the victim should be turned on the side to prevent choking if vomiting occurs. If emergency personnel have not yet arrived, and the person has not responded within two minutes, the second dose in the box should be applied.

After Thursday’s session, Youth and Family Services Coordinator Angelo Callis said 34 to 36 city employees have been trained to use Narcan. Several non-employees also attended Thursday’s training, including City Council President Pro Tempore William Nash and former Alderman and current Harbor Management Commission Chairman H. Tucker Braddock.

Angela Adams, executive director of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce, attended the training and will help Callis to extend the training to Norwich businesses in the next planned training session. Adams said it made sense for her to be trained, because the chamber’s office on Main Street is open to the public.

“We have an open-door policy,” she said of the chamber office. “If it can happen at the library, it can happen anywhere.”

Callis said the next step after all interested city employees receive the training — participation is voluntary — is to expand the training to local businesses and nonprofit agencies, especially those located in downtown Norwich. Members of the public would be invited to take the training if enough packets remain available.

“I’m going to talk to the businesses and see what they want to do,” Adams said.

Duhaime said SERAC also is conducting training in the region funded by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. One session open to the public will be held in Ledyard at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Bill Library, 718 Col. Ledyard Highway, sponsored by the Ledge Light Health District. Call (860) 910-0397 to register for the training, which will be open to 15 to 20 participants.

c.bessette@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version corrects the spelling of Angela Duhaime's name.

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