A recent piece in the New York Times reveals the vital need for Narcan-deployment training in NYC’s homeless shelters. A vital resource in preventing fatal heroin and opioid overdose, Narcan is now available over the counter in New York State, and is being used by law enforcement and private citizens alike to prevent overdose-related tragedy among their fellow New Yorkers. There remains however, one critical portion of the NYC’s population that is having a hard time getting access to this potentially life-saving medication: the homeless. This is largely because, according to the piece, only a fraction of of shelter staff across the city are trained to administer the drug.
The city’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene reports that overdose was the leading cause of death among homeless people in shelters last year, and accounted for about a third of all total fatalities. While there are 272 shelters across the city, a scant 18 percent these facilities have staff that are able to safely deploy the drug. While officials say training employees across the city is a top priority, progress continues to be slow as more and more homeless residents continue to succumb to overdose. There seems to be a renewed effort in making sure that as many employees and volunteers get trained as quickly as possible.
Those of us that have had the misfortune of watching our loved ones go through overdose know that seconds count, and can mean the difference between life and death. In an age in which heroin and opioid overdose are an increasing threat, it’s critical that those most vulnerable have access to swift and expedient anti-overdose resources. For those who work in homeless shelters, and care for a population that is particularly vulnerable to opioid and heroin addiction, simply waiting for emergency personnel may not be a viable or healthy option.