KINGSTON, R.I. — Aug. 23, 2022 — A URI College of Pharmacy Community First Responders event made an immediate impact on the community recently, playing a direct role in saving a life on Aug. 15.
Pharmacy students Elliana Spagnolo and Jacob Derby were staffing a table outside the CVS pharmacy on Broad Street in Cranston, handing out Narcan opioid overdose prevention kits and educating residents about the lifesaving medication. Local resident Michael Aubin happened by the table and stopped to chat with the students, ultimately taking two Narcan kits to keep in his car in case he ever had occasion to use one. He had no idea how soon it would pay off.
Just two days later, Aubin stopped at a local park in Providence. As he was getting out of his car, he heard someone yelling for help with a friend who was suffering an overdose. Because of his conversation with Spagnolo and Derby, he knew just what to do.
“They literally screamed ‘Does anyone have Narcan?’ I did. I used it on his friend and it saved his life,” Aubin said. “I administered the first dose and he immediately stopped convulsing. I saw some police officers in the park and ran to tell them. They came over and gave him a second dose, and 30 seconds later, he came back.”
Aubin said he felt confident administering the medicine due to the clear direction he had been given and the explicit directions on the box.
“This was such a random incident that I never thought I would ever be in, but obviously I was in the right place at the right time. I wasn’t nervous at all,” Aubin said. “I would suggest looking up URI Community First Responders and looking at when they have free Narcan handouts. Just when I thought I would never need it, I did and it saved a life.”
Students fan out at pharmacies across the state distributing Narcan and teaching residents how to use the nasal spray that can immediately reverse the effects of an overdose. The CFRP also offers online webinars for members of the general public to become Community First Responders
“Understanding how to recognize an overdose, and having these resources can help save lives when seconds are crucial,” said Clinical Associate Professor Anita Jacobson, who coordinates the program. “Anyone who knows someone taking opioids for any reason can be trained to recognize and respond to an overdose.”
That’s exactly what Spagnolo and Derby helped Aubin do, proving how valuable the CFRP outreach can be to the community.
“I would say it’s basically an example of the goal of the program paying off,” Derby said. “It’s about getting as many people as possible with Narcan in their hands. The more people who have it, the more protection people will have against overdose. It was definitely rewarding just to see actual outreach paying off tangibly.”
While the program offers people Narcan kits for free, some residents are not comfortable carrying the medication. Even so, the outreach is valuable, Spagnolo said, teaching residents about the critical medication, and helping clear up misconceptions people may have of an opioid overdose and opioid misuse in general, which can lead to stigmatizing those suffering from the condition.
“Even if people don’t necessarily take a kit, we give them a pamphlet and educate them about it,” Spagnolo said. “At least they know the name Narcan. People will come up to us and a lot of the time they don’t know about it. We’ve had several people asking if they’d get in trouble for administering Narcan, if it’s dangerous to have around kids. It’s good to be able to clear up some of those misconceptions. We confront them head-on.”
Residents can visit the CFRP website at uri.edu/cfrp for a schedule of upcoming outreach events or to request online training and a supply of Narcan to be mailed. The stories Aubin has heard about people losing loved ones to an overdose just since this incident cements his decision to carry the medication.
“What I’ve heard confirms the sad nature of the opioid epidemic and reinforces the need for Narcan,” Aubin said. “I would hate to refuse Narcan kits for free and feel guilty for not having one. I will always have it on me now.”