Loretto Hospital hosts free Narcan training sessions to help curb overdoses

As the number of opioid overdose deaths continues to climb in Chicago and Cook County, residents of one of the city’s hardest hit neighborhoods are getting training for a life-saving drug.

That community training comes on International Overdose Awareness Day.

"I hope you never have to use it," said one of the instructors, but many of those attending Wednesday's training session at Loretto Hospital have already lost friends and family members to opioid overdose. They’re here to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

"We will prevent a death," said Austin resident Jennifer Thomas. "Not hope. We will with this education and this training."

Nurses and health workers demonstrated how to administer Narcan, a drug that instantly reverses the effects of opioids. Each participant was given one free dose of Narcan, which usually retails for about $50.

They were also given instructions on how to identify if a person has overdosed.

"It’s really important that they recognize signs and symptoms of an overdose," said Dr. Crystal Carey, President of Loretto Hospital’s emergency department. "Looking for those small pinpoint pupils, that shallow respiration, somebody that’s just not responding."


In Cook County alone, more than 2,100 people died from overdoses last year — and a disproportionate number of those deaths occurred on the West Side.

"Here in the Austin community, we see opioid overdoses in the emergency room every single day," Carey said. "Several times a day."

And while police and paramedics frequently carry Narcan, experts say it’s important to get the life-saving drug into the hands of friends and family.

"We know by the numbers that the first person who comes into contact with someone who’s having an overdose is a close friend or family member," said Fred Smith of Maryville Academy. "And the more people we can get educated in the community, the more chances we have of saving someone’s life."