Narcan kits expanding throughout North Fork to combat drug overdoses

A string of fatal drug overdoses in the summer of 2021 left the North Fork community with deep scars. Now, local organizations and businesses are working together to help prevent future tragedies.

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 that 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 across 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 the drug used in Narcan nasal spray, is apparent nationwide as the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities. The nasal spray inhibits an opioid’s ability to bind to receptors in the brain, which could help stave off a fatal overdose. The drug specifically combats drugs that contain opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. It cannot treat overdoses related to non-opioid drugs such as cocaine, benzodiazepines or alcohol.

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

The first two Narcan stations from the SBELIH program were installed at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.’s Peconic and Greenport locations last month. Claudio’s, Ellen’s on Front, Front Street Station, Macari Vineyards, Little Fish, 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 & vice service chief of addiction medicine at SBELIH. “And to be honest, anybody can run across somebody who has overdosed, anywhere at anytime.”

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, according to program participants who have undergone the training, 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 [their skin turning] that blue color, that’s really advanced,” he continued. “That is when they’re really at risk of actual death.”

Any local business looking to install a Narcan rescue station may visit the hospital’s website to sign up for the initiative. 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.