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Latest front in opioid battle: Narcan classes in targeted neighborhoods

Over the weekend, three people died in Buffalo from opiate overdoses.

On Monday, a woman barely survived an overdose.

With the death toll increasing by the day, Buffalo Police on Monday announced that they are co-sponsoring with the Erie County Health Department more free classes throughout the city to train citizens in how to use Narcan, the opiate antidote.

“We are concerned about the health and safety of city residents,” Deputy Police Commissioner Kimberly L. Beaty said. “Opioids do not discriminate. That is why we are making this extra effort with the classes.”

The first death last weekend occurred just before 9 p.m. Friday on the West Side. A white male, police said, died on the 200 block of West Ferry Street.

On Saturday, there were no fatal overdoses, but with Sunday barely begun, police received a call of an overdose at 12:11 a.m. This time officers responded to a Bailey-Clinton neighborhood. Another white male had perished from an opiate overdose on Kirkover Street.

Then 12 hours later in the city’s Old First Ward at 12:13 p.m., police were dispatched to the 200 block of Katherine Street. A white male had died from a suspected overdose.

And at 1 p.m. Monday on the 100 block of Mackinaw Street, just a couple blocks away from Katherine Street, police and firefighters responded to a drug overdose and revived an unconscious woman with Narcan.

The classes on the antidote will target areas where there are already many overdoses and Narcan is frequently used, according to Health Department officials. Health and law enforcement officials are holding the classes in areas they feel will be more convenient to people who rely on public transportation.

The first class is set for 6-8 p.m. March 16 at True Bethel Baptist Church, 907 E. Ferry St.

On April 2, from 2-3:30 p.m., the second class is set to be conducted in New Testament Revival Cathedral, 987 Kensington Ave.

Beaty added that citizens from all sections of the city are welcome to attend the classes.

“We are in the business of saving lives,” Beaty said, “and there will be classes scheduled in South Buffalo where we’ve had the recent overdoses.”

Anyone who attends the classes will receive a free Narcan kit, Community Police Lt. Steve Nichols said.

In addition to this effort, Mayor Byron W. Brown last week said the city is looking into setting up a program where any individual suffering from drug addiction could enter a district police station, request help and police would attempt to refer the person to a treatment facility.

Health Department officials added that they have been working with local police agencies, including Buffalo, for months on making this proposal a reality.

Brown mentioned the program in promoting a town hall meeting set for 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave., to discuss the opiate epidemic. That event is being sponsored by the Save the Michaels of the World Foundation.

Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. says connecting addicts to help through police stations is similar to the “Gloucester Initiative,” where the police department in that Massachusetts’ municipality started a program which allows addicts to surrender their drug paraphernalia without threat of arrest and be assigned to a volunteer “angel” who arranges for their placement into treatment.

“My understanding is that the Gloucester Initiative has helped more than 200 addicts and anything we can do to help addicts recover is positive,” Flaherty said. “What addicts need is treatment, while drug dealers need prison.”

City narcotics officers last Friday arrested a woman and her son during a raid on a 15th Street home where police seized 980 bags of heroin and a quantity of marijuana. The heroin was believed to be spiked with fentanyl, a synthetic and dangerous opioid that authorities say is playing a major role in the fatal overdoses.

email: lmichel@buffnews.com