Special Narcan training session organized following drug overdose deaths

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 20, 2023

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Following the tragic deaths of three young adults from drug overdoses in a single day in June in Grosse Pointe Woods, city and community leaders are responding by organizing a Narcan training event.

Narcan administers naloxone in a nasal spray to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose and has been used successfully to save lives for nearly a decade.

The Family Center of Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods has teamed with Grosse Pointe Woods, Henry Ford Health and Families Against Narcotics to present a Narcan rescue training event from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. June 26 at the Grosse Pointe Woods Community Center, part of the Woods City Hall complex at 20025 Mack Ave. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is requested because organizers plan on distributing free doses of Narcan to participants and want to make sure they have enough. The training is open to teenagers and adults of all ages, organizers said.

“It really is horrible,” Family Center Executive Director Jennifer Bingaman said about the recent overdoses, which have left family members and friends in mourning.

She said The Family Center generally offers Narcan training through FAN about twice a year, but it added this session in an effort to possibly prevent additional deaths.

“Narcan is a nasal spray,” Bingaman said. “It’s very easy to use, and you can’t hurt anybody by using it.”

She said attendees will learn to recognize the symptoms to watch for in drug overdose cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of a drug overdose include: falling asleep or falling unconscious; small, constricted pupils; choking or gurgling noises; going limp; slow, weak or no breathing; cold and/or clammy skin; and discolored skin, particularly in the lips or under the nails.

“It’s like CPR — it’s just a resource, a tool you can use,” Bingaman said of Narcan. “It doesn’t hurt you to know (how to administer) it, and you could save a life. This shows that it can happen to anybody.”

The training is expected to take about 45 minutes and will be followed by a question-and-answer session. A therapist who specializes in addiction will be on hand as well.

“We’re going to have a therapist there who’s going to talk about addiction in our community and talk about resources in our area,” said MaryJo Harris, director of programs and administration for The Family Center.

Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Director John Kosanke said his department was investigating three deaths June 10 that appear to be drug-related. All the victims were roughly in their late 20s, he said. Two of the victims — a male and a female — were found at one residence, while the third victim — which Konsanke confirmed was the sister of the other female victim — was found at a separate Woods home.

“This is an ongoing investigation, so we’re really limited as far as what we can discuss,” Kosanke said.

He said police were awaiting results of toxicology testing by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine what specifically might have killed the victims.

While it was not known at press time whether the drugs used by the victims may have contained fentanyl, it’s a strong possibility, given the fact that even small amounts of fentanyl can be deadly.

A statement Kosanke issued to the media following the deaths reads, in part: “Nationally, fentanyl overdose and deaths have increased and are continuing to rise. Those that use illicit drugs, prescription drugs or over the counter drugs for purposes other than what intended can seek specialty programs available by contacting Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).”

Kosanke said social media posts and some news accounts have contained erroneous information.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Kosanke said. “Let us do our work. I know people want to know (what happened), and I know people want justice, but this takes time.”

Grosse Pointe Woods resident Theresa Forir, a mother, asked officials for better communication and more information with regard to incidents like this.

“Our small community has experienced terrible losses in the last several months, apparently to accidental drug overdoses,” Forir said during a June 19 Woods City Council meeting. “I say apparently because I don’t think there has been enough communication to the residents about what happened. The last thing I want to do is encroach upon the grieving families and/or interrupt whatever investigation is taking place, but there must be some sort of middle ground where concerned residents, particularly parents, can be informed of this serious threat in our community.”

Parents can use the information to talk to their kids, she said.

“I know that we all want to protect our kids, and one way to do that is to give parents and guardians the tools and information they need to have honest, direct, factual conversations with their kids about the real and deadly dangers drugs pose. … Good kids make bad decisions every day,” Forir said. “I am asking that we all work together to make sure the next bad decision doesn’t result in death.”

To register for the Narcan training, visit familiesagainstnarcotics.org/naloxone and click on the registration link for the Grosse Pointe Woods event. For more information about the program, call (586) 438-8500.

For more information about The Family Center — including addiction and recovery resources — visit familycenterweb.org or call (313) 447-1374.