Narcan Distributed To Dozens On Green

Allan AppelIn rehab from an opioid addiction, Kyle Cummings, who not long ago had been homeless and living in his car, is in a good place now. Yet there are many people in his life who are not. That’s why he was happy to receive the latest edition of the opioid antidote, Narcan, in a nasal spray variety— to keep in his pocket, just in case.

Linda Guttierez smokes a synthetic cannabinoid known as K2 or Spice, a bad batch of which which sent approximately 47 people, including Guttierez, to the hospital for a total of over 100 times in a couple of days last month.

As she copes with addiction, she said she now feels more secure to have received several packets of specialized fentanyl detection strips to dip into the K2. With a little water, you insert the strip and see if it’s positive or negative, just like in a pregnancy test.

Their stories of addiction — how to do it without killing yourself, as well as the struggle to get clean and not relapse — emerged this past Thursday afternoon as the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, along with other organizations dealing with addiction and homeless services, marked the third annual National Overdose Day on the Green.

The idea was to raise awareness of drug overdose, reduce stigma, and spread the word about prevention.

The latter took the form of writing “scrips,” as the professionals call prescriptions, for Narcan not only for users of opioids but for anyone who would like to have it handy to save a life if necessary.

“On a bus, a train, in schools, no one’s immune from a place where someone might overdose,” said Melissa Zuppardi, an assistant program director for the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center.

“That’s why we need to get the word out.”

In the first hour of the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. event, Zuppardi and the pharmacist sitting beside her wrote Narcan prescriptions for 15 people.

“It gives parents a measure of control,” she said. “I’ve heard from parents. They hear gurgling from behind the door of the room. Their kid’s overdosing.”

Now, with the Narcan, which she taught people at her table how to use, they can save their kid’s life.

Workers from Cornell Scott, the Yale University School of Medicine’s Community Health Van, the city’s emergency operations center, and the volunteers from SWAN (Sex Workers Alliance Network), all of whom were busy demonstrating the nasal spray, and injection Narcan, would distribute about 150 kits altogether, estimated Phil Costello, Cornell Scott’s clinical director of homeless care.

Sally Graveline, a volunteer with SWAN, said Narcan has saved her life and she has used it to save others’ lives.

“Every urban dweller should be required to carry one,” she said.

Yale School of Medicine Department of Infectious Diseases nurse Sharon Joslin, on duty with the community van, put it this way: “We’re losing 200 people a day to overdose. My goal is to get people the care they need, as if they had diabetes.”

“Some people believe we are encouarging addiction” through distribution of the Narcan, and the methadone and Suboxone which she also had on hand, Joslin said. “I respect that position but I don’t agree. My belief is we need to help because substance abuse is a disease like diabetes. I don’t believe we should just let people die. Everyone should be treated equally. Not just people who can afford to go to the Betty Ford Clinic.”

While injection Narcan obviously requires a needle (big enough to go through clothing), the latest version of the nasal Narcan, as demonstrated by Zuppardi and others, is easy to administer.

Here’s what you do, said Zuppardi, if you come across someone who is having an opiod overdose: First you call 911, because each dose of Narcan lasts only from 20 to 90 minutes. Then you open the package, put the cone in one nostril and press. You wait for two or three minutes for the person to arouse. If the person doesn’t, you do it again in the other nostril.

The Narcan being distributed comes two to a box, with a portion of four milligrams to each, which is twice the strength of the previous version, said city emergency management chief Rick Fontana.

Narcan wouldn’t have helped the vast majority of K2 overdose victims in mid-August, because that batch turned out not to be laced with fentanyl.

That’s why part of the focus Thursday was to get the word out about K2, for which there is, at this point, no antidote, said Costello.

“I feel marijuana users will see it as ‘synthetic’ marijuana, which it is not,” he added. “It’s harmful,” and cheap, which is why he fears people may be switching over to it.

Dr. Phil

As he was helping to supervise the event, several people called out to Costello, aka “Dr. Phil.” Costello is not a doc but an advanced practice registered nurse—actually a guy who was a mechanical engineer for 20 years, before he retrained to do what he loves.

They call me Dr. Phil, from what they see on TV,” he said.

Between checking one guy’s heart and repairing, with iodine, gauze, and bandages on a bad gash on the heel of another homeless man who approached him, Costello reflected on the larger picture:

“The Narcan is just to keep people alive until they can get into recovery. But a lot of these people relapse and self-medicate. They have had terrible problems in their youth or as children. When they stop using, PTSD or bipolar returns and can devastate them. What’s little known is that relapse is a part of the recovery process.”

His solution? It’s double-pronged, he said: Starting in school there has to be far more of a concerted education campaign about drugs. Ultimately that is the only way to “close the barn door.” In addition, there has to be a long-term wholistic approach with enough mental health services to do the job.

Yale Medical School’s community health care van, a mobile clinic, will be parked in front of Trinity Church on the Green every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to noon for the immediate future while the city pursues longer-term actions, like opening a walk-in center a block or so from the Green.

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posted by: DisgracedNewHaven on September 4, 2018  7:38am

Ahh yes, let’s give the people who pay no taxes, don’t work and provide nothing to society even more free stuff. Here you go overdosers, here some free Narcan so you can overdose, revive yourself and do it all over again.

This quote is the epitome of the disaster New Haven and the approach to overdosing has become:

“Every urban dweller should be required to carry one,” she said.”

posted by: Wooster Squared on September 4, 2018  9:22am

This has gone way past any notion of compassion and into full-blown enabling. The best way to prevent an overdose is to stop doing drugs.

New Haven is never going to be successful as a city if it insists on turning the green into Hamsterdam.

posted by: narcan on September 4, 2018  9:35am

Opiod addiction is a disease like diabetes? Ok, then how about we triage our disease treatment and instead of giving away double doses of a drug (which we already know would not have helped on the green anyway), we instead hand out free insulin or epi-pens to people that did not self-induce their disease.

With the money that is left over, we can continue the opiod addiction scheme. Perhaps with a smaller budget, it will be properly distributed to people that are psychologically ready to recover instead of spending untold millions getting high on the dole.

posted by: Wooster Squared on September 4, 2018  9:53am

@narcan nails it. Calling addiction a “disease” and treating it like anyone other is a kick in the gut to people who are truly ill. Someone with cancer can’t decide one day to no longer have cancer. An addict can decide to stop being an addict, and in fact most do sooner or later.

Obviously, there are some social components to addiction, but there’s also a strong individual behavior piece and to pretend otherwise is to treat addicts like they are helpless children, which they are not.

Holding individuals to absurdly low standards of individual agency is not compassion, it’s complicity in their path of self-destruction.

posted by: Dennis Serf on September 4, 2018  10:15am

Pure Madness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are interested in re-shaping New Haven, not simply talking and complaining, then please visit to see how you can help.

posted by: Atwater on September 4, 2018  10:56am

Such a sad day in New Haven history. Sad for everyone else too. We’ve gone from treating and curing addiction to becoming partially compliant and helpful to those who have been ravaged by drug abuse. I guess it’s a lot cheaper than actually helping these people. Just make sure you don’t OD near or on the Green. Yale is back in session and the University doesn’t want to see the destruction they helped to create.

posted by: LookOut on September 4, 2018  11:05am

WOW - so this is where our increased state and local tax money is going?  Does anyone think these things through?  Anybody want to bet me that the next OD mess on the green will be 200 people instead of 47?  Guarantee that the word will spread that downtown New Haven is the best spot to get wasted, revived, wasted again….

posted by: westvilledad on September 4, 2018  12:36pm

i have no problem giving out life-saving test kits or drugs. in fact, it saves money - cheaper to pass out the narcan than to have 10 firefighters respond and then transport to hospital.

BUT this needs to come with a clear message from police. you MAY NOT DO DRUGS on the green or ANY OTHER PARK in this city…if you do you will get arrested. we need to make sure kids and families can safely enjoy public spaces.

posted by: hartman on September 4, 2018  1:40pm

D’oh! Not the expected comments I’d guess. Slightly off topic (but related) - This is my green, your green and that of every resident, visitor and student. It is not, however a green to be trashed and those that do, should have no expectation it’s their green.

When I was a rookie on the beat, I knew the green’s less fortunate by their names. There were a couple dozen or so. Some were ornery, some pleasant, some were addicts, most were drunkards but all were known. Today, it’s different. The steady stream of addicts from outside of New Haven have taken over. Thefts downtown and in East Rock, Wooster Square and nearby neighborhoods increasingly lead right back to those occupying the green.

The green’s less fortunate are now the residents, visitors and students who’d like to, but can’t, enjoy a sit on a park bench, untainted by human urine or vomit. The unfortunate are those that’d like to, but can’t, lay out on a blanket and soak in the rays or read a book without having to listen to alcohol and drug fueled disputes, punctuated by hourly arrivals of cops and EMTs to deal with them. How unfortunate we all are.

Shame on every single person responsible for the stewardship of this land.

posted by: OhHum on September 4, 2018  3:50pm

The easiest way to distribute the Narcan is to give dealers boxes of the stuff to give to addicts when they purchase drugs. Hell, the drug dealers don’t really want to kill their clients so it just makes sense. Addicts should also be told to be on the buddy system and take turns using the drugs they purchase. Wait 15 min. to do the drug after the first buddy takes it. If both of you take it at the same time neither of you may have the time to give the other the Narcan. Of course illicit drugs are illegal so will just have to give the dealers a pass on dealing as they will be providing a public service.

posted by: TheMadcap on September 4, 2018  4:31pm

ITT: only certain people deserve to live

posted by: narcan on September 5, 2018  12:09am

How trite, Madcap. Nobody said anything about certain people deserving to live.

Walking on railroad tracks at night, swimming with sharks with a bloody nose, and injecting substances into your body all come with inherent risks. If someone got hit by a train or bit by a shark, we would all say “Well duh, what did you think would happen!” But because it is the topic de jour, we are expected to ignore the CHOICES the addict is making and protect them from consequences.

A lot of people are upset that such massive amounts of resources are devoted to keeping addicts addicted…excuse me…“treating” addictions…when others with legitimately organic medical needs have such difficulty or expense receiving care .

posted by: TheMadcap on September 5, 2018  7:45am

Yes, when someone gets hit by a train or bit by a wild animal, or say falls off a mountain face they were climbing, we don’t have anyone help then, and just sit there going “told you so”. It’s the same reason we do not help those suffering from an event caused by heart disease or smoking since those are mostly due to lifestyle as well. Or, or, that is all nonsense and you guys are hating on an already beaten part of the population.

posted by: Atwater on September 5, 2018  9:20am

The biggest concern I have about this is that it isn’t really helping addicts, in the long run. Yes, it is important they have a way to help them if they overdose. But, this seems to be just a mere band-aid that won’t really address the addiction and the factors that cause and enable it. As I stated before, it seems like we are only helping addicts remain addicts and in some small way, approving of their habit.

Yes, we want to help these people, we need to help these people. They deserve dignity, kindness and care. I just don’t think that handing out Narcan is doing anything other than kicking the can down the road.

A lot of commenters do not really understand the science of addiction, especially opiod addiction, which is powerful and unrelenting. Once addicted, individual agency ceases to exist. We should reserve our judgement and scoldings and instead act to pull people out of addiction.

posted by: TheMadcap on September 5, 2018  10:15am

“I just don’t think that handing out Narcan is doing anything other than kicking the can down the road.”

I mean the people handing our the narcan say the same thing. But it keeps people alive until they get down the road

posted by: Atwater on September 5, 2018  1:16pm

MadCap: But isn’t that just perpetuating the addiction? That was my point. Give someone Narcan, by all means, but don’t stop there. Offer treatment and counseling, maybe even housing during treatment. I know that this report was about a specific need and was not about the greater fight against addiction. But, at some point we will need to get into that fight and I can see no better time than now. Liberalistic do-gooders seem all too happy to apply band-aids and smile for the cameras. We can’t celebrate that, we shouldn’t, we need to go further and we need to be better. As you have mentioned, people’s lives depend on it.

posted by: TheMadcap on September 5, 2018  2:05pm

“But isn’t that just perpetuating the addiction?”

Yes in the sense it is keeping them alive. Everything else requires much larger structures in place as well as willpower by the addict