Tybee Island first responders receive firsthand Narcan training

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - As the opioid crisis rages on nationally, here locally, first responders are training not only to treat those having a drug overdose, but also how to protect themselves from a dangerous situation.

Police and fire rescue crews on Tybee Island are receiving that training. The Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition is behind Thursday's training, and they have been for other first responding agencies around Chatham County.

Tybee Island firefighters and police officers packed into the room to learn more about the life-saving effects Naloxone can have in an overdose situation.

First responders say with the presence opioids and even more harmful substances coming into their community, especially during the busier tourism months, having the kits with each officer is crucial.

"This will be a great tool to use for our officers and anyone that comes in contact with these drugs," said Ofc. John Paul Price, TIPD.

No certification is needed, so the difficulty comes with purchasing the life-saving kits, which can cost near $5,000 per kit for some brands.

"You don't want to put a price on something lifesaving, but it is costly to have a lot of the stuff on our trucks," said Chief Ashley Fields, Tybee Island Fire Department.

That's where Lesli Messinger and her team with Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition come in. Messinger has presented to other departments around the county, one of the latest was the Port Wentworth Police Department back in July. Since then, officers equipped with Naloxone have reversed two overdoses. 

For Messinger, who lost her son Austin to an overdose, the effort is personal, and part of her presentation is explaining addiction as an illness.

"I try to personalize it, you know because it's not just a body. Somebody loves that person. Many people love that person," Messinger said.

Thursday, the Savannah Harm Reduction Coalition is donating 20 kits to the fire department, something their chief says will be a great asset to their life-saving efforts.

"Spring Break here, people come from all over the country. You got the younger crowd coming in, and they will bring the drugs in. But with the Narcan training today, it's good help for us to help slow that down until we get the EMS. It's protection for our guys in case they walk into something bad, protection for the police department. So, having this on our trucks is going to be a great help," Chief Fields said.

Messinger says she's been asked to continue the training for cadet classes with Savannah Chatham Metro and the new Chatham County Police Department has reached out to her as well.

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