Lifesaver Awards Ceremony Honors 67 New Yorkers Who Reversed an Opioid Overdose Using Naloxone

As part of the City’s HealingNYC initiative, the Health Department has distributed over 45,000 naloxone kits so far in 2017

Last year, more than 450 lives were saved using naloxone

October 5, 2017 — First Lady Chirlane McCray and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett today hosted the first ever Lifesaver Awards Ceremony to honor 67 New Yorkers who used naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose. Collectively, the nominees saved at least 255 lives, with one individual personally reversing more than 40 overdoses. The ceremony also recognized approximately 140 Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs. Last year, New Yorkers reported using naloxone to reverse more than 450 overdoses. In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced HealingNYC, the City’s comprehensive initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over five years. Through HealingNYC, the Administration is investing $38 million annually at full ramp-up to increase overdose prevention education and naloxone distribution, expand access to medication-assisted treatment and promote judicious opioid prescribing. The Health Department has distributed over 45,000 naloxone kits so far in calendar year 2017. The Health Department also conducts regular community trainings, open to all, and provides naloxone kits free-of-charge.

“A multitude of heroes have stepped in to save the life of a family member, a friend or a total stranger, and I salute each one of them. By safely administering naloxone, these heroes saved not just one life but helped whole families and communities. And these lives represent a mere fraction of the lives that have been saved with naloxone, as many instances go unreported. I deeply appreciate Commissioner Bassett and all of our dedicated health professionals who understand that timely treatment is critical to survival, and work through HealingNYC to normalize the conversation around substance misuse, treatment and recovery,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts.

“The New Yorkers honored today are heroes, and their actions demonstrate that reversing a drug overdose and saving someone's life is possible with naloxone,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “With a record number of people dying from a drug overdose last year, we need New Yorkers to learn about this potentially life-saving medication and carry naloxone.”

“People who take opioids, their families, friends and caregivers should have the emergency medication, naloxone. It’s easy to get in New York City: it’s available at over 700 pharmacies citywide, at local community opioid prevention programs, and at the NYC Health Department’s regular trainings,” said Dr. Gary Belkin, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Mental Hygiene.

Nominees for the Lifesaver Award include:

  • Maria Rivera, an outreach worker for the New York Harm Reduction Educators, who has saved three lives with naloxone this year.
  • Edis Kaleci, an outreach worker for the Washington Heights Corner Project, who used naloxone to save three lives in one night alone, in addition to numerous other saves over the years.
  • Christopher Voci, who received his kit while attending a behavioral health program and subsequently saved two lives in one night.
  • Reilly Glasgow, a Project Manager at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center of the Alliance for Positive Change who personally saved over 40 lives with naloxone.

In New York City, someone dies of a drug overdose every seven hours. In 2016, there were 1,374 confirmed overdose deaths, opioids were found in 82 percent of deaths, and fentanyl was involved in 44 percent of deaths. From January to March 2017, there were 346 confirmed drug overdose deaths in New York City. The number of drug overdoses remains at epidemic levels as illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a potent opioid, continues to be present in the drug supply. Fentanyl has been found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ketamine as well as in benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics acquired from non-pharmaceutical sources.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional, uniformed first-responder or an everyday New Yorker — if you step up to save a life, you’re a hero,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Congratulations and thank you to these 67 New Yorkers, who have set an example for all of us. As we struggle to reach the day when the heroin and opioid crisis is behind us, we all should learn how to spot overdoses and never hesitate to call for help and intervene to save lives when we can.”

“Congratulations to all the honorees of the inaugural Lifesaver Awards who have worked tirelessly in our communities to save lives from opioid overdose,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The crisis with opioid misuse has touched so many lives, but these individuals have made a real difference and are leading the way in ensuring naloxone gets to the people who need it.”

"Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “If states and cities want to confront this epidemic, we must enlist the efforts of all our citizens, which includes expanding access to lifesaving drugs like naloxone. I'm grateful to First Lady McCray, Commissioner Bassett, and the brave men and women being recognized at today’s Lifesaver Awards Ceremony for the efforts to save lives and look forward to working with them to stem the tide of addiction and overdoses in New York."

“These New Yorkers are true heroes, who acted quickly and calmly in the face of calamity to save the life of someone who was overdosing,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. “With a growing opioid epidemic, it is vital that we get naloxone into the hands of as many New Yorkers as possible, because the person who needs an overdose reversal could very well be your friend, family member, neighbor and colleague. A naloxone kit and a bit of training can and does save lives.”

“So many people have been affected by the opioid crisis,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “Everyone honored at the Lifesaver Awards has taken steps to educate themselves on Naloxone and were able to reverse deadly overdoses. Naloxone is one of our best tools in the fight against opioids. I hope these awards raise awareness so more people will learn how to administer Naloxone and save lives.”

New Yorkers can purchase naloxone without a prescription at over 700 pharmacies throughout the city including all major chain pharmacies (Walgreens, Duane Reade, Rite Aid and CVS). At least one form of naloxone is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid. Naloxone is also available for free from registered Opioid Overdose Prevention Programs. The Health Department offers regular naloxone trainings, which teach New Yorkers to recognize the signs of an overdose and respond by calling 911 and administering naloxone. The trainings are free, and all participants are offered a free naloxone kit.

Opioid overdose deaths are preventable. Treatment with methadone or buprenorphine is highly effective and can reduce the risk of overdose. Individuals seeking support or treatment for substance use issues for themselves or their loved ones can contact NYC Well by calling 1-888-NYC-WELL, texting “WELL” to 65173 or going to nyc.gov/nycwell. Free, confidential support is available at any hour of the day in over 200 languages.

If you experience or witness an overdose, call 911 immediately.

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