By Briana Vannozzi
Dr. Ken Lavelle works quietly behind the scenes assisting civilians and law enforcement officers in developing statewide programs to administer the overdose reversal drug.
“We are able to get the Narcan out to reverse these overdoses and some of them would have died if law enforcement would not have been able to give it as quickly as they could,” he said.
Today he was honored for his work. Ocean County was the pilot program for the rollout of New Jersey’s law enforcement Narcan initiative. Since it started in 2014, more than 512 agencies statewide have been trained to use and administer the antidote.
“It takes care of saving a life that particular moment. It’s important for us to understand you have to crawl before you can walk and that was the first part in solving the addiction problem,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.
Naloxone or Narcan has been deployed more than 2,500 times since 2014. The bulk of that was last year with nearly 2,000 deployments and 58 this month alone.
In Ocean County, 272 lives were saved last year in 2015, a big jump from the 129 overdose reversals in 2014. The prosecutor says using the Narcan kit is just step one in the larger effort to get people the help they need to fight their addiction.
“We’re turning out what I call Narcan Two, where the recovery coach has taken place and that’s also a pilot program that will take place here,” Coronato said.
Coronato has been at the helm of the outreach. The county offers free training and kits to civilians. They’ve given out more than 500 to date.
“When they’re at the hospital now there’s going to be a recovery coach, an individual who’s trained and kind of walked the walk and speak to that individual,” Coronato said.
In October, CVS announced the overdose antidote was available without a prescription at stores in New Jersey and 12 other states. Dr. Lavelle says it needs to come with education.
“Originally the law said a family member could go to their doctor and get taught how to use this. However we found that many doctors were unaware of that,” he said.
“Today I’m asking you to join me in doubling down…any station I life,” Gov. Chris Christie said Jan. 12.
Christie pledged his support during this year’s State of the State saying New Jersey will provide a fully staffed drug addiction treatment facility to combat the epidemic. Behavioral health specialists say it’s needed more than ever. They’ve seen an uptick in the demand for the drug.
“For family members this is a tool that brings peace of mind knowing that I have it in my back pocket, so that so to speak,” said Maria ????.
Prosecutor Coronato says despite the success, the work doesn’t stop here. This is a long-term battle that can’t be won in just a year or two.