Long Island residents combat heroin overdoses

Kristin Thorne reports on a class in Suffolk County
April 4, 2014 9:43:40 AM PDT
At first glance, it looks like medical personnel are receiving training. But these aren't doctors, nurses or EMTs.

They're just regular people learning how to do something extraordinary -- how to save someone who's overdosing on heroin by injecting them with Naloxone or Narcan.

"Hoping I don't have to use it but if I do I'll be saving a life," West Islip resident Liz Schatzger said.

These free Narcan training sessions, hosted by Drug Free Long Island, are happening in libraries, firehouses and community centers all over Long Island and nationwide in response to the growing heroin epidemic. Federal officials recently called it an urgent public health crisis.

"I can't think of anything more pressing than the disportionante amount of fatal overdoses impacting young people today," said Steve Chassman, from the Long Island Council on Drug Dependence.

Barbara Barthels, who lives in South Huntington, agrees.

"I'm a family association member of Daytop, which is a local drug rehab, and unfortunately I know a number of people who could well need this at some point," she said. "A lot of people here say they don't know anyone who uses, but learning this is kind of like learning CPR. It's a good thing to do, because you just never know when you may be able to jump in to save someone."

That's exactly what Council on Drug Dependence member Thomas Jan hopes these training sessions will enable people to do.

"This allows people to actually give that person another chance," he said.

And because a heroin overdose happens over a 1- to 3-hour period - unlike how it can be portrayed in Hollywood - there is plenty of time to jump in. And that is something residents participating in the training are quite willing to do.

"I am here because I think this is extremely important," participant Lisa Starling said.

If you would like to attend a free Narcan training on Long Island visit DrugFreeLI.org.