While the movement for first responders to carry Narcan has been spreading across the state, a program in Atlantic City gives civilians access to the same potentially life-saving drug.
Tom Chanoux, an Atlantic City resident, explained, "I lost both of my parents from overdose; one when I was 18 and one when I was 21." But 38-year-old Chanoux believes his parents, and many of his friends, might still be here with him today - had the heroin overdose antidote Narcan been available. "Pretty much everyday of my life I see people overdosing or you hear about friends overdosing. I've probably lost 20 of my friends in the last 10 years from overdoses."
Tragic stories of loss like Chanouxs’ have become all too familiar - with heroin overdoses in South Jersey reaching epidemic proportions.
That's why in addition to emergency responders now carrying the potentially life saving drug, it's also available to regular citizens.
Georgett Watson is the Chief Operations Officer for the South Jersey Aids Alliance and said, "That's what we've been doing as well: training parents, training friends, training boyfriends and girlfriends, on how to use Naloxone, in case their loved one overdoses."
A nurse with the South Jersey Aids Alliance will train a heroin addict, or anyone else who wants to learn to use Narcan, at the Oasis Drop In Center. Just two days ago, officials with the South Jersey Aids Alliance told us that a mother saved her daughter's life by using the drug.
Watson explained, "We've actually had four documented saves. Two were friends saving friends."
This past November, the South Jersey Aids Alliance received a $25,000 grant through the Drug Policy Alliance, which has allowed them to run the Naloxone distribution program.
Just this week, law enforcement officials in Ocean County started carrying the overdose antidote, and officials want people to know that it's also available to civilians.
Mike Nees, a Case Manager at the South Jersey Aids Alliance, told NBC40, "I hope some day we can look back on it and say, 'It's such an obvious benefit, I can't believe it wasn't available sooner.'"
A proven overdose antidote, that can and will hopefully make a difference - so others don't experience the loss that so many already have.
"I wish I had that back when my father ‘OD'd’ and I was able to give that to him. It would've been a great thing."
Officials say this distribution program is one of the results of the Overdose Prevention Act signed by Governor Christie.
Members of the South Jersey Aids Alliance hope to train other nurses in New Jersey at syringe access programs, so that they can distribute Narcan as well.
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