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Narcan training grows as overdoses increase

Mike McGaffney just remembers feeling helpless.
Giving out sandwiches and water in Atlantic City’s Brown’s Park in March 2016, he remembers several people lined up by the fence using drugs. Then, one man overdosed.
While he was giving CPR he heard someone saying, “Use Narcan.”
But he didn’t have any.
He never let that happen again.
McGaffney is one of several locals who carry the opioid antidote naloxone with them, just in case. It’s a trend that’s growing.
Charlie Kerley, Atlantic County Alliance coordinator, offers free training and kits through the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The preliminary number of overdoses in the county last year were 160.
That’s double 2015, Kerley said. This year is expected to see that same increase.
Fentanyl and the even deadlier carfentanil are seen as the reason.
A test showed that heroin sold on the street is only about 8 percent heroin with 92 percent fentanyl, he said.
Kerley’s classes have had anywhere from two people to a packed house, he said. The next one is from 10 a.m. to noon at Stockton University next Tuesday.
The program includes an overview of the drug problem in Atlantic County, including the type of drugs on the street, numbers of overdoses and how addiction affects the body. Then, they learn how to administer Narcan themselves, and get a kit to take home.
Mike Price hasn’t had to use his yet, but he’s prepared.
“Heroin overdose has become an epidemic everywhere,” the Egg Harbor Township man said. “Why not spend one hour of your time for free training and a Narcan kit?
Atlantic City lifeguard Tom Flynn III got his Narcan and training through work. He had a save last year.
He was driving along Pacific Avenue when someone waved him down, and he saw someone else unconscious on the ground.
A quick assessment told him it was an overdose, so he administered the Narcan and they regained consciousness.
It’s not always successful, though.
McGaffaney has saved 39 people since he started carrying Narcan 21 months ago. Two others were lost.
“So hard,” he said of not being able to bring them back.
He makes sure to never have less than six doses. Sometimes, it takes more than one to bring someone back.
On Nov. 11, he used three doses to save a woman. That was the third save that month.
Kerley said he developed the program as a tool to eliminate the stigma of addiction.
Some people who get the training know someone with an addiction or lost someone to an overdose. Others, he said, just think it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Like Price, who still has his kit at the ready.
“This addiction has no boundaries and could strike anywhere or any place at anytime,” he said. “People need to get involved and fight back against this horrible addiction. This is a great place to start.”

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