The Town of North Hempstead recently partnered with Northwell Health to offer free Narcan training to employees during work hours to help residents found overdosing from heroin or other opioids around the town.
“Our employees interact with the public every day, and you never know when someone may be in a car and we discover them overdosing, or in one of our facilities, in one of our parks, or in one of our buildings,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “It’s important that our employees have the training to deal with it. This isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, unfortunately. It’s unlikely that you would encounter anybody who doesn’t have somebody they know that is dealing with addiction problems.”
Bosworth said the training on March 2 was open to the first 75 town employees who registered from across all departments and was full within the first day.
Much like CPR training, which is required for town employees, Bosworth said the Narcan training is a necessity in today’s society. The official statistics for 2017 have not been calculated for Long Island, but officials in Nassau and Suffolk counties are projecting about 600 Long Islanders died last year from overdoses — 400 in Suffolk and 195 in Nassau.
The two-hour training was conducted by the Northwell Health Opioid Management Steering Committee and began with an introduction to addiction as a disease and options for treatment before the training.
“It was really very interesting to see how engaged our employees were,” Bosworth, who stayed for the workshop, said. “You could have heard a pin drop in the room throughout the entire presentation, which was about two hours. No one was losing interest.”
Bosworth said this was the first time the committee had partnered with a municipality for training and all workers, union or nonunion, were invited to participate.
Bosworth said the training was to instruct employees on the use of the Narcan inhaler and also to change the stigma of addiction. Employees were also given a kit at the end of the workshop with two Narcan inhalers, latex gloves, alcohol wipes and other necessities.
“There was a time when if someone had a diagnosis of cancer, you’d hear them whispering with their hand over their mouth about it as if it were something to be ashamed of,” Bosworth said. “We have to change the attitude toward addiction as well so that people are more comfortable discussing it, which will lead to them getting the help they so very much need.”