Chamber to hold Narcan training for local businesses

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 26, 2019


MADISON HEIGHTS — An upcoming event by the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce will equip businesses with the tools and knowledge they need to save people suffering from the effects of an opioid overdose.

The event is limited to business employees and will take place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17 at the Lamphere Schools Administration Building, 31201 Dorchester Ave. in Madison Heights.

The event will train attendees on how to administer Narcan to someone suffering from an opioid overdose. The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities will present the training and also provide business employees with Narcan kits.

Paramedics and police officers in Madison Heights also carry the drug — known as naloxone — to quickly counter the effects of an overdose. The drug is administered via an intranasal spray.

“Businesses have a risk of interacting with overdose victims within and without — it could be an employee, or it could be a customer,” said Keri Valmassei, the chamber’s executive director. “Either way, it’s a necessary skill set to have.”

The effects of an overdose can include pinpoint pupils, confusion, slow or absent breathing, cold and clammy skin, a slow heartbeat and low blood pressure, blue lips and blue nails, unconsciousness, and even death.

From January through June of this year, there were 111 overdose deaths in Oakland County — 33% of which were adults ages 50 and older with no history of drug misuse.

“They simply took too much medication and lost their lives because of it,” said Kimberly Heisler, executive director of the Madison Heights Community Coalition, or MHCC, which is partnering with the chamber on this event. “I’ve seen firsthand the impact of this opioid crisis. I’ve been to funerals and have also celebrated recovery with families. We know that no one is immune to addiction or an accidental overdose.

“It saddens me when I hear that some people feel Narcan is simply a tool for people to continue to use drugs,” she said. “I’ve also heard that addicts don’t deserve to live if they are poisoning their body. Hearing statements like this only fuels my desire to educate our citizens. I know that people don’t wake up and hope to die from an overdose.”

There are two types of prescription drugs that are the leading causes of misuse and death: painkillers (opioids) and tranquilizers (benzodiazepines). Common opioids used to treat pain include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone and codeine.

There are also illegal opioids such as heroin. Synthetic opioids including fentanyl and carfentanil are also on the rise. These are far more powerful and are often mixed with heroin.   

But for many victims, the drug use starts in perfectly legal fashion, simply following a doctor’s orders and taking prescription drugs.

Heisler said she hopes that Narcan training events will continue to raise awareness and also dispel the myths around opioid misuse. And of course, having access to Narcan and knowing how to use it can literally save lives.

“This training will empower business owners to save lives by teaching participants how to administer Narcan, and conclude with the gift of two lifesaving doses of Narcan,” Heisler said. “The  most wonderful thing is that this training is being offered for free to businesses in Madison Heights and Hazel Park. The MHCC won’t stop offering training like this until the opioid epidemic is over, and until then, everyone should want to be educated on how to save a life through administering Narcan.”

Other efforts by the MHCC include partnering with the Madison Heights Active Adult Center to distribute special pouches for the safe disposal of unused or expired medications, and participating in the biannual National DEA Drug Take Back Day, which this year will be held Oct. 26, when people can drop off unneeded medications at designated areas, like the Madison Heights Police Department, where a drop box is available 24/7.

Heisler noted that employees from any local business are invited to this latest event, but the MHCC is especially targeting fast food employees, since there have been many instances of people overdosing in the bathrooms of those establishments.   

Brian Buchholz, the police chief of Hazel Park, said he has seen the difference that smart use of Narcan can make in saving lives.

“It’s unfortunate that the opioid crisis is so bad that this type of training is needed, but (Narcan) really is effective in reversing the effects of accidental opioid overdoses,” Buchholz said. “Our first responders have saved numerous lives with (Narcan), so when more people are trained and equipped with it, those save rate numbers are sure to rise.”