Garrison responders disheartened by influx of overdoses
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to two heroin overdoses on Oct. 22 in what Capt. Derek Tudor called a sign of an escalating epidemic.
Tudor said Garrison EMTs answered the first call Saturday morning and the second that night. In both cases, the victim was a young adult male who had been found unresponsive by family members or friends in a home, Tudor said.
In the first case, someone in the home administered Narcan, an opiate antidote, before the arrival of first responders. In the second case, the ambulance crew administered the drug, which is known generically as naxolone.
Tudor said it is satisfying to save lives but disappointing that overdoses are happening so often. Not so long ago, he said, “it seemed we would get maybe one or two overdoses a year. In this past month, we’ve had three.” He was not sure of the total so far this year, but it’s not a local phenomenon. More than 3,000 people have been saved by Narcan across the state since 2006, according to New York health officials, but more than 1,500 of those rescues were last year.
Most heroin overdoses involve young men between the ages of 18 and 30, such as the two revived Oct. 22 in Philipstown, but Garrison EMTs have also saved people of retirement age. Like many first responders across the country, Tudor wondered aloud if addicts feel a false sense of security knowing that Narcan is readily available; proponents of wider distribution point to studies that indicate the drug reduces overdoses and overall drug use. Whatever influences may be at play, “we’ve been busy,” Tudor said. “It’s a real shame. I don’t know what the answer is going to be.”
New York this year joined 34 other states and D.C. in allowing pharmacies to distribute naxolone without a prescription. Training in administering the drug, which also counters painkiller overdoses, is available at St. Christopher’s Inn at Graymoor in Garrison. The next scheduled session is Nov. 6. For details, email Rob Casasanta at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants must register; no walk-ins are allowed.