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Narcan stations expanding across North Fork: Lifesaving kits can help prevent fatal overdoses

A string of fatal drug overdoses in the summer of 2021 left deep scars on residents of the North Fork and Shelter Island. Now, local organizations and businesses are banding together to help prevent further devastation.

Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, the Greenport Village Business Improvement District, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. and Community Action for Social Justice have joined forces to install Narcan rescue stations in various North Fork establishments. The hope is these emergency kits — which include two Narcan nasal sprays, rubber gloves, a mouth covering to safely administer CPR, fentanyl testing strips and directions — will help prevent potential opioid overdoses.

“Any way to save a life,” said Julie Petrocelli-Vergari, a special event coordinator at Raphael Winery in Peconic, one of the nine locations throughout the North Fork that now have the kits on hand. “I just wanted to do the right thing and have them available in case of an emergency. It’s so scary.”

The need for naloxone, the generic name for Narcan, is apparent nationwide as the opioid crises continues to ravage communities. The nasal spray inhibits an opiate’s ability to bind to receptors in the brain, which could help stave off a fatal overdose. The pharmaceutical specifically combats drugs that contain opiates, including heroin, fentanyl, OxyContin and Vicodin. It cannot treat overdoses related to non-opioid drugs such as cocaine, benzodiazepines or alcohol.

The Shelter Island Emergency Medical Services, as part of a pilot program run by New York State, became one of the groundbreaking EMS units in the state to employ Narcan inhalers.

The initiative to bring the life-saving treatment to area bars and restaurants comes a year-and-a-half after six people between the ages of 25 and 40 — Shelter Islander Swainson Brown, Navid Ahmadzadeh, Nicole Eckardt, Fausto Rafael Herrera Campos, Matthew Lapiana and Seth Tramontana — died of opiate overdoses after ingesting fentanyl-laced cocaine.

The first two Narcan stations from the Stony Brook program were installed at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.’s Peconic and Greenport locations last month. Claudios, Ellen’s on Front, Front Street Station, Macari Vineyard, Little Fish, the East End Seaport Museum and the Greenport American Legion have also committed to the program.

“My opinion is that everyone should have access to Narcan, not simply only those people who have an opiate use disorder, but people who know somebody who may have an opiate use disorder,” said Dr. Lloyd Simon, the medical director and vice service chief of addiction medicine at SBELIH. “And to be honest, anybody can run across somebody who has overdosed, anywhere at any time.”

Other community members are stepping up to prevent drug overdoses, including Samantha Payne-Markel, Mr. Tramontana’s girlfriend before his death. Educating and training the public to use Narcan is a key focus of her Gold Boots Foundation, which she launched in honor of Mr. Tramontana and named after his signature look. Last September, the foundation hosted a mini golf fundraiser, during which attendees observed a presentation on how to properly administer Narcan.

“The Narcan stations are so important, and I think they are going to make a difference for sure,” Ms. Payne-Markel said. “I hope it’s not true, but I think it’s very possible that these stations, by the end of the summer, could save someone’s life.”

Administering the Narcan spray is fairly intuitive, but it is important to be aware of the signs of a potential drug overdose. “The initial thing is likely alteration of their mental status, whether somebody appears suddenly sedated or lethargic or seems to be asleep while they’re sitting at a table,” Dr. Simon said. “We had a case not too long ago where somebody was found sleeping in a bathroom in a local pizzeria. That was the indication of their overdose.

“When they’re actually starting to get cyanotic — with [the skin turning] that blue color, that’s really advanced,” he continued. “That is when they’re really at risk of actual death.”

The kits are available to any local business looking to install a Narcan rescue station. The program is underwritten by SBELIH, CASJ, the Greenport BID and the Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., so there is no cost to the individual businesses for the kits or the Narcan training.