Norwich offers Narcan training to downtown business owners

Norwich – Angelo Callis wore a Santa hat and a bright red scarf and carried a sack as he and two assistants visited downtown businesses Monday.

They weren’t carrying holiday presents to shop owners and businesses, but what they did have saves lives.

The three members of Norwich Youth and Family Service’s Partnership for Success program brought Narcan kits and free training to businesses interested in learning how to administer the opioid overdose-reversing drug and stocking it in their establishments.

As of mid-morning Monday, Callis, Deanna Delaney, recovery coach for the Coordinated Addiction Recovery System, based at Reliance Health, and Christine Goracy, the grant-funded Partnership for Success coordinator and facilitator for the Norwich Heroin Task Force, had trained more than 20 downtown workers and gave them free Narcan kits to keep in their facilities or take with them.

Norwich Youth and Family Services received a $7,500 grant last summer from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut to train up to 100 people on how to use Narcan and provide them with free doses of the overdose-reversal drug. The program started with training city employees, including police officers working with the local police union. Callis said 65 Narcan kits are now stored at dozens of city agencies.

The next phase called for expanding the training to downtown businesses, an effort that started Monday. At Craftsman Cliff’s coffeeshop at 30 Broadway, owner Matthew DuTrumble said he is eager to be trained, but couldn’t do it Monday. He offered to coordinate a future training session for his staff and several other downtown business owners and community members.

DuTrumble said he saw first-hand the importance of knowing how to respond to a medical emergency. Though not an overdose situation, DuTrumble said shortly after the new coffeeshop opened last May, a Norwich Fire Department lieutenant came in to buy coffee. During his time in the shop, the lieutenant kept an eye on a woman sitting in the corner, DuTrumble recalled. He asked if she was OK, and she said, yes.

Seconds later, the woman had a “massive seizure,” DuTrumble said, which he later learned was a diabetic episode. DuTrumble was thankful that a trained firefighter was on hand to provide immediate assistance.

While the Narcan training won’t make DuTrumble or his staff medical professionals, he felt it was something they could do to help in a potential emergency.

“This is really empowering us to make the right decision,” DuTrumble said. “Anything we can do to help the community.”

Callis emphasized in training sessions that administering Narcan is safe for both the potential overdose victim and the person giving the dose. If the recipient is not experiencing an overdose, or the overdose does not involve an opioid drug, the Narcan wouldn’t treat their emergency, but it wouldn’t harm them or cause any side effects.

Robert Mills, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp. said he and program manager Jill Fritzsche and four others took the training at NCDC’s Foundry 66 shared workspace facility at 66 Franklin St. Monday.

“What a learning curve for us,” Mills said, “to understand how harmless and how vital it is. We stocked some in our first aid kits, and we’re prepared.”

Nancy Gentes, executive director of Madonna Place, which provides support programs to parents with young children, said about 15 people at her agency took the training Monday. She said she asked agency managers to attend and left it to other staff to decide if they wanted to take the training.

“We do have clients with addiction issues, many of them,” Gentes said, “so we do have the risk. It’s definitely something we had wanted to do. Angelo called on Friday, and I said 'OK, what time?' ”

She said Madonna Place has had medical emergencies occur at the Main Street facility, but not an opioid overdose.

“It’s terrific,” Gentes said of the grant program. “The nice thing about the training is that in addition to the training, they had the recovery coach here. And then to be able to leave the Narcan with us. It’s obviously needed, and it’s great they got a grant to do it.”

Recovery coach Delaney said she is working with about 60 members of Reliance Health recovering from addiction. The best scenario, she said, is for the overdose victim to be referred immediately to a recovery coach after the overdose episode for improved success.

Delaney said her clientele ranges in age from 18 to 70s. Some are recent drug users, while others have been sober for 10 to 15 years. Delaney herself is a recovering addict. She first became sober in 2008, became a certified recovery coach in 2010, but suffered a “four-day” relapse in 2013. She’s been sober since but said she can empathize with addicts struggling to stay sober.

Goracy said she hopes the Norwich Heroin Task Force’s four-pronged response to the opioid crisis – outreach to at-risk youth, education, treatment and use of Narcan and recovery coaching – is starting to show progress. Norwich had 33 overdose deaths in 2017, the highest total in the region, and through June 2018, the total was 12.

“We’re improving a lot of services,” she said.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

The Norwich Coordinated Addiction Recovery System (CARS) will hold a public informational meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Otis Library, 261 Main St., Norwich to discuss a new coordinated addiction recovery program that is being piloted in the greater Norwich area.

The system offers a coordinated approach to helping individuals access substance use disorder (SUD) recovery services with additional care coordination provided by 2-1-1 and a dedicated Recovery Coach located at Reliance Health. Under Norwich CARS, Norwich social services agencies have been asked to refer individuals with a SUD or who are looking for recovery resources for an individual with a SUD, to the United Way of Connecticut, 2-1-1.

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