By Amy Kawata

HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County officials say so far this year, the overdose-reversing drug, Narcan, was administered in every case of non-fatal overdoses.

It’s exactly what Howard County park rangers, Ian Smith and Tabitha Kanagie had on hand when responding to a 9-1-1 call at Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge on August 9th.
“Because of that, we were able to give these families back their loved ones,” said Tabitha Kanagie, Park Ranger.
“We the two men, we were told by family they were taking drugs, we administered naloxone and began administering CPR and fortunately were able to resuscitate them,” Ian Smith, Park Ranger.
The reversing drug Naloxone, better known as Narcan, comes in the form of a nasal spray and can quickly halt the deadly effects of narcotics, essentially bringing people back from an overdose in a matter of minutes.
“It shuts off the opioid receptors in the brain. It’s administered nasally and works about five minutes. It’s very small, we keep it on our duty belt at all times,” said Smith. “They don’t need to be breathing for it to work, it absorbs through the mucous membranes.”
“Anything can really happen at any moment in any place and you just have to be prepared,” said Kanagie.
That’s why first responders are hoping to get the drug in the hands of more people who need it.
“People with the right training in the right place at the right time can make all the difference, and that doesn’t need to be someone like me, it can be anyone, said Smith.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to those facing substance abuse.
“During a time when we were all physically distant, when there was a great deal of uncertainty, increase in anxiety, a lot of the support systems for those who were suffering with substance abuse disorder were not there…. a lot of people suffered in silence and suffered alone,” said Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive.
In Howard County from 2019 to 2020, data shows a 43-percent increase in opioid-related deaths. So far this year, that number is down 70-percent from last year.
“The stories put faces to these opioid numbers and illustrate how the preparedness of our government and our community to confront the epidemic is proving successful,” said Ball.
While officials say Narcan can’t completely solve the opioid crisis, it can be a vital component for recovery.
“Feeling his pulse start in my hand, and seeing his eyes open up, it’s going to be something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” said Smith.
Howard County has a free opioid overdose response program that offers monthly virtual training on how to identify and respond to opioid overdoses, all attendees receive a Narcan kit.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or mental health challenges, you can contact the behavioral health navigation team at 410-313-6202. You can also seek information on howardcountymd.gov/gethelp