Year in Review 2023

Year in Review 2023: Narcan stations combat overdose deaths

Thanks to a collaboration between Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospi- tal and the not-for-profit organization Community Action for Social Justice, roughly 20 locations in Southold now house Narcan rescue stations, including Town Hall, the Human Resources Center in Mattituck and several schools and local businesses.

The program expansion occurred two years after six area residents — Navid Ahmadzadeh, Swainson Brown, Nicole Eckardt, Fausto Rafael Herrera Campos, Matthew Lapiana and Seth Tramontana — died from opioid overdoses after ingesting fentanyl-laced cocaine over the course of a single August weekend.

“Unfortunately, it took the tragedy of losing six members of our community to recognize that Southold is not immune to the dangers of fentanyl and of drug and opioid use,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in Octo- ber. “It really hammered home that it is serious.”

Paul Connor, chief administrative officer for SBELIH, said that with thou- sands of overdoses happening more frequently across the country, these Narcan stations and other harm reduc- tion methods are needed now more than ever.

“The community needs to rise up and say this is our problem, we need to be

part of the solution,” Mr. Connor said. “It’s very gratifying that the communi- ty can recognize and respond to a very critical and serious problem.” Typically administered as a nasal spray, the medication Narcan — also known by the generic name naloxone — reverses a fentanyl overdose by preventing the opioid from binding to a person’s brain receptors. The drug specifically targets drugs that contain opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

Rich Vandenburgh, owner of Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and former president of the Greenport Village Business Improvement District, helped jump-start the project by installing some of the area’s first Narcan stations in his Greenport and Peconic breweries.

After the string of fatal overdoses in Southold and Greenport, Mr. Vandenburgh knew he needed to act and encouraged other local businesses to do the same. He said he suggested the idea of creating these emergency Narcan rescue stations and designing them to mimic AED stations.

All Narcan rescue stations are supplied free by SBELIH to local businesses in Southold Town. Community Action for Social Justice offers free training in administering Narcan.

While there was some reluctance from the community to installing the Narcan rescue stations stemming from concerns they may encourage dangerous drug use, Mr. Connor said it’s important to understand that substance abuse is a disease.

“Even in health care, there are people with biases that we try to actively identify and change because there is no room for that in our business,” he said. “Substance abuse disorder is a real disease and people are still not convinced of that — we’re becoming more aware of these diseases, how they manifest and what can be done to treat it.”

Original reporting by Times Review Staff