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‘Good neighbors’ fill opioid overdose prevention classes in Brooklyn

Learn to administer Naloxone, save lives

June 12, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Participants in an overdose prevention training session at the Bushwick Library on Tuesday received an opioid overdose rescue kit with naloxone (also called Narcan).  Eagle photo by Mary Frost

What do you do when coming across someone dying from an opioid overdose — unconscious, not breathing, on the sidewalk or at the grocery store?

Good neighbors filled a library auditorium in Bushwick on Tuesday to learn how to save a life by administering naloxone, an opiate antagonist.

“Shake them vigorously. Shout, ‘Can you hear me!’ And if they don’t respond, make a fist and do the sternum rub,” said Herbert Quinones, overdose prevention trainer for the NYC Health Department.

“What do you do?” he asked the crowd.

“Shake, shout and rub,” the crowd responded.

“Next, call 911. Tell them what you’re observing and your location. Then give the medicine — the nasal spray,” Quinones said. “Peel back the paper, place it so your fingers touch their skin, and press the plunger one time.”

“Peel, place and press,” the crowd chanted.

The lesson was part of a series of free overdose prevention training sessions sponsored by Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer, who wants to minimize the devastation on Brooklyn’s streets from opioids. Borough Hall partnered with the city, NYPD and Brooklyn Public Library to arrange the training.

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There were 297 opioid overdose deaths in Brooklyn in 2016, the second-highest out of the five boroughs. Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bushwick, East New York and Williamsburg had the highest number of overdoses. 

At Tuesday’s event, local residents learned not only how to administer the naloxone (also known as Narcan), but also some of the science behind its action: how naloxone competes with opiates at the receptors in the brain; about the increase in drugs that contain Fentanyl, a very fast-acting opiate; and about factors that raise a person’s overdose risk.

They also learned about the New York State 911 Good Samaritan Law, which protects rescuers from liability if they chose to administer help.

After the two-hour session, participants became certified opioid overdose responders and received free overdose rescue kits with naloxone.

“This is a special initiative by the borough president to use the libraries for opioid overdose classes,” Quinones told the Brooklyn Eagle. Roughly 90 to 95 percent of attendees take the kit, he said, in effect committing to responding to overdose emergencies to the best of their ability.

When asked what motivates people to take the course, Quinones said, “Some are good neighbors, some have lost someone and some have seen it in their neighborhood.”

Robert Camacho — known as just “Camacho” in Bushwick, where he has lived his entire life — told the Eagle he was taking the class “to be a good citizen.” Camacho said he lived near Myrtle Avenue, known to have a lot of drug activity.

Theresa Davis, who sits on the board of the Gowanus Tenants Association and community group FUREE, said she has been hearing a lot about the opioid epidemic on the news lately. 

“I want to be a person who can help if I see it happening,” she said.

Canarsie resident Annette Thomas told the Eagle she was taking the class “because of what I read about the seriousness of this opioid epidemic. I want to be part of the solution if I can.”

A Borough Hall spokesperson told the Eagle that BP Adams “is hopeful we can schedule more workshops in the months ahead.”

Thus far, in addition to the DeKalb Branch session on Tuesday, Adams has hosted sessions at New Lots Branch in East New York; Sheepshead Bay Branch in Sheepshead Bay; Central Branch in Prospect Heights; Bedford Branch in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Coney Island Branch in Coney Island; Bushwick Branch in Williamsburg; Brooklyn Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn; Stone Avenue Branch in Brownsville, and Fort Hamilton Branch in Bay Ridge.

Statistics compiled by the Health Department in 2016 found that Brooklyn residents aged 55 to 64 years had the highest rate of overdose death among all age groups. Rates of overdose were highest among white Brooklynites — nearly double the figure for black residents, although the rate of overdose death among black Brooklynites increased by more than 50 percent last year in comparison to 2015 figures. In all cases, heroin was the most common drug involved in these deaths, constituting 55 percent of all fatalities.

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