Garden City, N.Y., December 22, 2022 – Rebekah Silverman, CRPA wasn’t even supposed to be home that night. It was Thanksgiving and she intended to spend it with her family, but everyone was sick. Luckily she was in her apartment around 6pm when outside, she heard screaming for someone to call 911.
She looked out her window and saw a woman lying on the ground, her face a scary shade of white. She handed her baby to her partner and ran outside with the Narcan kit (from THRIVE) that she keeps in her kitchen.
“I always have Narcan available because I knew it would be useful someday.”
As she approached the situation, she saw that there was a nurse who lives in her building already on the scene. The nurse had begun administering CPR, which Rebekah credits for keeping the woman alive.
Although she has worked as a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate (CRPA) in FCA’s Sherpa program since March 2021 (and had been volunteering for THRIVE since 2020), Rebekah had never actually administered Narcan to someone who had overdosed. Narcan is a “potentially lifesaving medication designed to help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes.” (Narcan.com) Rebekah explained that she felt like she couldn’t speak or breathe and was in full adrenaline mode.
She administered a dose of Narcan, and then a second dose when the first did not revive the woman. After the second dose, the woman came to just as the police arrived on the scene. Rebekah explained that it took almost 20 minutes for the police to arrive, and that if it weren’t for the nurse administering CPR and Rebekah giving her Narcan, the woman would very likely be dead. According to the Narcan website, “brain damage can occur after 4 minutes without breathing and death can occur only 4 to 6 minutes later.”
There were more than 700 opioid overdose deaths on Long Island in 2021. With almost 6,000 overdose deaths statewide, we saw a 68% increase in opioid overdose deaths from 2019-2021 (from the “Continuing Crisis: Drug Overdose Deaths in New York” November 2022 report from the NYS Comptroller’s office). At a press conference held at THRIVE announcing the report, Comptroller DiNapoli explained that “we see a trend going very much in the wrong direction… These are tragedies that devastate families and impact our communities in countless ways.” (Newsday.com)
Fentanyl is a “synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine…” and is a “major contributor to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the U.S.” (CDC.gov). People using opioids are not the only ones who should be concerned about fentanyl; the highly addictive synthetic opioid is being laced into many other substances such as cocaine and even marijuana. Fentanyl testing strips, available for free at all THRIVE locations, can be used to test whether a substance contains fentanyl.
There is a lot of misinformation and lack of understanding around Narcan. Anyone can be trained in Narcan and the training only takes about 45 minutes. “If you know how to use Flonase, you know how to use Narcan” Rebekah explained. THRIVE Nassau (located in Westbury) offers weekly free Narcan trainings every Thursday evening, in-person and via Zoom.
Narcan will work on someone who has overdosed on a substance laced with fentanyl, but the effects only last 30-90 minutes (regardless of whether there is fentanyl present). It is crucial to get medical treatment as soon as possible once it has been administered.
Even if your Narcan has expired, it can still be effective in reversing an opioid overdose. It is best to keep Narcan on your person, as extreme temperatures may cause it to freeze or lose its chemical stability. In 2020, the FDA approved an increased shelf-life, meaning your Narcan kit is good for 36 months.
For Rebekah, this work is deeply personal; she has been in recovery from opioid use for the past two years. She initially learned of THRIVE while she was in outpatient treatment and began volunteering there in September 2020. She then received a scholarship from Long Island Recovery Association (LIRA) to become a Certified Recovery Peer Advocate, so that she could help others see that a life of recovery is possible for them. She began working full-time for Sherpa in March 2021. She also works as a CRPA for the Nassau Treatment Courts through the Sherpa program. At FCA and THRIVE, we truly believe in person-centered recovery. This means that recovery looks different for each individual, and that helping someone use one less bag a week IS doing something, Rebekah explained.
When asked about her experience on Thanksgiving, Rebekah humbly expressed gratitude for the nurse who kept the woman alive, for FCA, THRIVE, and LIRA for giving her lifesaving training and skills, and for her own life experiences which led her to this moment.
“I wasn’t supposed to be home that night, but I was… it was meant to happen.”
FCA operates as an Opioid Overdose Prevention Program, offering free trainings and Narcan kits. To get trained in Narcan, pick up free fentanyl testing strips, and get involved with our THRIVE Recovery centers, head to thriveli.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Sherpa is FCA’s team of Certified Recovery Peer Advocates who are trained to meet with individuals and families within hospitals and the community who are struggling with Substance Use Disorder. To learn more about how Sherpa can help, call 516-592-7385.
FCA is a not-for-profit agency helping more than 30,000 Long Islanders each year. For more than 138 years, the organization has worked to protect and strengthen vulnerable children, seniors, families, and communities on Long Island.
FCA believes in the potential of Long Island – a place where no child, senior, family or community is left to struggle alone with barriers to health care, education, employment, or economic prosperity. Long Island continues to be one of the greatest places in the world to live and raise a family for many; FCA exists to ensure that be the case for all. For more information about FCA, visit FCALI.org.
NARCAN® is a registered trademark of Emergent Operations Ireland Limited.
Pictured: Rebekah Silverman, CRPA (far right) with Erin McNulty, CRPA, Nicolle Vasselman, LMHC, CASAC-2, and Jaymie Kahn-Rapp, MPA, MSEd, LMHC, CRC (from left to right)