ELYRIA — Joseph Supina said he knows some people believe distributing the drug overdose antidote Narcan enables addicts.
“Those that do have never had to hold the hand of a loved one at (an addict’s) funeral. I’m just tired of doing that,” said Supina, Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center executive director. “If I have the opportunity to save somebody from dying, I’m going to do that.”
Supina, 66, is a long-term recovering addict who said he last used drugs in 1974 and was one of several people receiving Narcan kits at the Elyria City Health District on Thursday. Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a synthetic narcotic that blocks the effects of opiates, like heroin, on the nervous system. The nasal spray must be administered within minutes of an overdose to revive the victim.
The distribution came after a law took effect in March allowing the public to use Narcan. The law requires people to call 911 immediately before or after giving the antidote.
The law was in response to a national heroin and prescription pill epidemic. Fatal overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in Ohio since 2007.
Lorain County had a record 67 fatal overdoes last year. The deaths topped the 2012 record of 60, compared with 22 each in 2011 and 2010
Local officials like Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans, Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera and state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, lobbied for the law. In 2013, the Legislature approved a pilot program in the county allowing firefighters and police officers to carry Narcan. Between October, when the program began, and the end of February, police in the county used Narcan 30 times and revived 28 people, according to Evans.
The kits, worth about $30, were provided by University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, according to Dr. Douglas McDonald, medical director of the Elyria and Lorain County health districts. After watching a 17-minute video about overdoses, including how to resuscitate victims through “rescue breathing” and how to administer Narcan, participants met with McDonald.
McDonald said seven people have received kits from the district since the law passed including parents and grandparents of addicts. McDonald said he has stressed the need to call 911 before or immediately after using Narcan to get paramedics to respond. “You don’t want to take the chance of reviving someone and thinking that’s all you need, and then they get worse again,” he said.
While turnout was light Thursday, McDonald said he expects more people will come to future distributions given the depth of the epidemic. “It’s really been a matter of just getting the word out,” he said.
Kathy Boylan, Elyria Health District director and acting Lorain Health District director, said she supports the new law. However, Boylan said government needs to be more proactive by providing support to poor single mothers and youth at risk of addiction even if it means spending more money. Boylan compared Narcan distribution to saving people who have fallen out of canoes from drowning, but not steering canoeists away from dangerous rapids.
“We need to be out there supporting those people,” she said. “How can we get back and help those kids?”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free kits containing Narcan, a nasal spray that can revive a person who has taken a heroin overdose, will be distributed 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 12 at the Elyria City Health District, 202 Chestnut St., Elyria. For more information, contact Kathy Boylan, Elyria Health District director, at (440) 284-1551 or email@example.com.