New Milford pushes for more Narcan kits

Narcan kits were distributed during a meeting on the overdose-reversal drug Monday night at The Maxx.
Narcan kits were distributed during a meeting on the overdose-reversal drug Monday night at The Maxx.H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW MILFORD — A town that has been hit particularly hard by the heroin epidemic is making a serious push to have the overdose-reversal drug available for first responders, with one Town Council member even offering to use his own money to buy life-saving kits for the police department.

About 25 parents, first responders and town officials attended a Narcan training session Monday at The Maxx.

The New Milford Substance Abuse Prevention Council and MCCA sponsored the event, which was led by JoAnne Montgomery, director of Behavioral Health Services with the AIDS Project of Greater Danbury.

“We meet people where they are,” Montgomery said. “Our goal is harm reduction. Drug use exists along a continuum. There’s an initial decision to try the drug. Nobody takes a drug intending to become addicted. But the brain chemistry changes and they can no longer control the need. Tolerance to the drug increases. And addicts will go to any length to get the drug. We know the end result can be death.”

“Drug users are more than just their drug use, and drug-related harm can be reduced,” Montgomery said.

“You have to be realistic that abstinence from drugs is not going to happen for everyone. We still have to figure out why for some it takes one time and for others it takes 50 tries to get clean.”

“Drug users can only enter treatment if they are alive,” Montgomery said.

Naloxone, commonly known under the brand name Narcan, has a shelf life of two years and is administered with a nasal inhaler applicator. Narcan is sensitive to extreme heat, but Montgomery said she keeps a kit in her car.

The state is working closely with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to fund the dispensing of Narcan kits, are charging agencies like the AIDS Project of Great Danbury $24 a kit, she said.

Narcan programs have been established in about 200 communities in the United States. Studies have shown no change in opioid abuse in the population receiving Narcan kits, Montgomery said.

Town Councilman Paul Szymanski attended the session Monday and offered to give $1,500 to fund a first round of Narcan kits and training for New Milford police officers.

“The chief (Shawn Boyne) had said he thought the kits were cost-prohibitive for officers to carry,” Szymanski said. “But learning that the (state) Department of Public Health will supply them for $24 a kit makes this affordable. I’ll gladly put up my own money for this.”

Boyne said Tuesday he has been working with Dr. Tom Koobatian, of New Milford Hospital and Campion Ambulance, over the past year to develop a Narcan program for his officers.

Boyne said his officers will eventually carry Narcan kits as a backup to the EMS.

“We never turned our head from the Narcan program,“ Boyne said. “Now that its delivery is more through the mucus membrane of the nasal cavity than by injection, the administering of the dose is more efficient.”

Boyne said Szymanski’s offer was welcome and “highly commendable.” Boyne said he asked the DPH if police departments could obtain Narcan kits through its program, but he didn’t think it was possible.

He said the department‘s medical supplier quoted the cost of each kit to be $48.88, and the Police Chiefs Council has recommended each officer carry two Narcan kits per vehicle.

“Any money spent saving a life is worth it,“ Boyne said. “We’re getting all the details in place before moving forward. We’ve been talking more agressively about implementing the program over the last two weeks. I know that once everything is in place and I present this to the Town Council, it will be met with overwhelming approval.”

Connecticut has had a “Good Samaritan” law regarding Narcan since 2011 that was updated in 2012 prohibiting prosecution for drug paraphernalia possession by someone who is solely seeking medical attention for an overdose victim, Montgomery explained.

Since 2014, Connecticut doctors have been able to prescribe Naloxone.

Malloy’s Comprehensive Bill allows pharmacies to sell Narcan kits and provide training on how to use them, Montgomery added.

She said that she expects it will take awhile before all pharmacies offer them.

The kits are only effective for opioids like heroin, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, morphine, Demerol and methadone, among others.

If a drug user has taken an opiate with benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax and klonopin) to enhance the high, the Narcan will only affect the opiate, Montgomery explained.

But that can give the overdose victim a chance to live until EMS arrive, she said.

There were more than 2,000 accidental or undetermined opiate overdose deaths between 2009 and 2014 with 152 out of the 169 towns in Connecticut experiencing at least one opioid-related death.

“Prescription opioid deaths are slowing down, but heroin deaths are up,” Montgomery said. “It is more the norm than not that someone will relapse in the first 90 days after leaving rehab.

“Narcan kits are given to everyone leaving our rehab.”; 203-731-3352