Kevin Fairkolb was the regular bartender last Saturday night in September. Kent House Irish Pub In Towson, Maryland, when a group of patrons heard commotion from the corner booth where they were playing the card game Magic: The Gathering.
“They weren’t the type to drink beer, they weren’t the type to get rowdy or shoot,” he said.
As I ran over, I saw that one man’s face had turned yellow and his eyes had sunk back. he had an overdose.
Fairkolb grabbed Narcan (a nasal spray version of naloxone, a drug that treats opioid overdose) from behind a bar, tilted the man’s head back, and pushed the plunger to release the dose. The customer woke up and was taken to the hospital. Mr. Fairkolb, still reeling from his experience, returned to his duty.
“I thought it was going to happen at the club next door,” he said. “Not in a quiet place where people just sit in the corner playing games and casually drinking.”
Like America’s opioid crisis keeps getting worse — said that the number of deaths from such drugs more than doubled from January 2015 to January 2023, to 105,000. federal data — Overdoses are now a regular occurrence in and around social settings such as restaurants and bars. City officials and nonprofits are working to get Narkan, which became available in stores in March, to ready-to-use businesses.
The job of a service worker like Fairkolb now includes undoing an overdose.
For some industry insiders, keeping Narkan on hand seems like an obvious move, like stocking other first aid supplies, said general manager Jed Thompson. Ta. cat with mean eyes, a bar in Austin, Texas. But after spending time checking vaccine cards and enforcing mask-wearing after the pandemic, many others feel daunted to join the front lines of another health crisis. .
“Bartenders shouldn’t be blamed for not making money,” said Ryan Purdy, who works at the Philadelphia brewery that stocks Narkan. “It should be left to someone trained to do so who is expected to save lives.”
Much of the surge in overdose deaths is due to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be easily combined with recreational drugs such as cocaine without the user’s knowledge. Fentanyl can be fatal even in minute amounts.Fentanyl was present in New York City 80% of overdose deaths That will happen in 2021, according to the city health department. And in Maryland, where Mr. Fairkolb works, Opioid Operational Command Center reported about the drug 2,310 killed About 16 times more than heroin from March 2022 to March 2023.
The hospitality industry is already seeing results. Last year, Shreeta Woldon, executive director of the nonprofit, said: Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalitionshe said, looking up Louisville zip codes where calls to emergency services about overdoses were made, almost all were in bar-lined neighborhoods.
She regularly visits restaurants and bars to hand out Narcan, trains staff in how to use Narcan, and reassures them that the spray won’t do them any harm unless overdosed.
Owners often resist stocking Narcans because they think it will lead to drug use. At the same time, the workers she trains frequently pull her aside to treat anyone she meets or to take her own medicine in case she overdoses. Ask you. (Historically, the restaurant industry high rate About substance abuse. )
“Our goal is to normalize it and make it part of our normal lives as much as possible,” Waldon said.
Dr. Michael L. Barnett, an associate professor at Harvard University, said restaurants could play a big role in that normalization. TH Chang School of Public Health.
“Everyone goes to restaurants and bars, and that raises awareness of the problem,” says Dr Barnett. He compared Narkan-stocked restaurants to coffee shops that ditched plastic straws, helping to shift public opinion against their use. “The impact may be difficult to measure for some time, but I think it adds up to be significant.”
The restaurant and bar are also public places that anyone can visit, said owner Max Moreland. FBR managementowns several bars in Austin that serve Narkan. Overdoses can occur in other situations, but “Narkan can’t be in every home,” he said.
Kent House manager Noel Swain said the bar “has a sense of community and social responsibility.”
The accessible nature of these spaces is especially important to marginalized groups like LGBTQ people and racial minorities, who have been disproportionately affected by the fentanyl epidemic and have had emergency supplies at bars. He said it may be most comfortable to get a Narkan that will be held. Cortina Rude (Real name is Carrie Escovedo), a drag queen who performs as part of Nalkan’s training. Weekly drag show at Oasis Nightclub in San Francisco.
“Nightclubs, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are community spaces that can empower underserved communities who may face medical discrimination,” she said. “Those who work in the nightlife industry aren’t necessarily contracted to do it, but in the end it effectively happens.”
Mr. Ruud receives supplies of Narkan from the city. Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Projectdistributed more than 84,000 doses of naloxone from July 2022 to June 2023. Some companies have received free Narcan from local nonprofits, city public health departments, or as part of settlement agreements with opioid manufacturers.
And this drug isn’t just parked behind bars, it’s being used. According to DOPE project data, naloxone was used in the recovery of 8,765 overdose cases in San Francisco during the same period.
A similar scenario is playing out in Portland, Oregon, where Mauricio Sanchez is a barista. Two months ago he had just finished serving his drink. dead stock coffeeWhen he went outside, he saw a man lying nearby, surrounded by people who said he had overdosed.
Mr. Sanchez grabbed Narcan from a deadstock storage locker and administered it twice to the man before he regained consciousness.
Sanchez was grateful to have Narkan in his store. But in places like Portland, where opioid use is rampant, government agencies aren’t taking enough responsibility for the problem, he said. “They expect small businesses to look out for these people and support them,” he said. “It feels unfair.”
Officials in some cities said the supply of Narkan to restaurants was not meant to shift government obligations onto workers.
Deepa Avra, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Health, said, “I’m not saying that restaurant staff alone are responsible for addressing this issue.” “But we need to recognize that this problem is prevalent in our city and give individuals the tools to deal with it.”
Some workers also said they were clearly qualified to respond to overdoses because of their service experience.
“Bartenders and hospitality workers succeed by always looking at 10 things at a time to see if someone is being over-served,” says the employee-owned Bridget Murphy, co-owner of the pizzeria, said. extra extra In Buffalo, New York, we store medical supplies in Nalcan.
Some of Murphy’s friends in the restaurant industry have told her they don’t understand why pizzerias serve Narkan. “Just like you can go anywhere and ask if they have ibuprofen, I think those places should have Narkan,” she said.
But ibuprofen doesn’t have the stigma of Narcan. Man overdose while drinking outdoors in summer 2021 donny brook, a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her manager, Maria Christenson, sprayed her nose with Narcan and revived her.
But Megan Joy, owner of Donnybrook, said she had been hesitant to tell patrons she had Narkan since the overdose incident. “She didn’t want to be seen as a safe place to do drugs,” she said.
Kasey Anderson, Director of Development and Community Engagement great dane clubAt our Portland recovery center, we’ve heard this argument many times from bar owners. “I have a fire extinguisher at hand,” she said. “Will it invite someone to arson?”
Getting ready to use Narkan is just part of having a service job, said bartender Ellen Wilshup. project reda Portland non-profit organization that distributes Narkan.
“We are already doing our part to serve and care for others,” she said.
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