The Benton Police Department’s overdose response team is hosting a free Narcan training in early October, the department said on Facebook earlier this month.
It will cover information about how to spot an overdose and how to use Narcan as well as some information about how some people become addicted to opioids.
“Participants will receive a Narcan kit at the end of training,” the post said.
Sean Willits is the peer recovery specialist on the overdose response team, and he will be leading the training. He’s been with the Benton Police Department since July.
For Willits, this work is personal, as he himself is in long-term recovery from opioid addiction.
He said Narcan is extremely effective in helping prevent overdose deaths.
“It’s a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose,” he said Tuesday morning, “The nasal spray does only last 30 to 90 minutes. As long as you get to the person in time, it will completely stop the overdose from happening. You see people go from blue, not breathing, not moving to getting up and moving around and talking within a few minutes.”
Willits said the training is being held in order to help educate Arkansans and save lives.
“We believe that, if we educate people, there’s more people in the community that know how to use Narcan, armed with facts about it and able to help reduce overdose deaths,” he said.
Willits said anyone is welcome, and parents interested in bringing their child would need to fill out a permission slip, as well as accompany the child to the training.
He said anyone could benefit from this training.
“You could walk outside a gas station, a grocery store, anywhere and see an overdose happening and — with this training and Narcan — someone could save a life,” Willits said.
According to reports from the Arkansas Department of Health, there have been more than 200 fatal drug overdoses and over 2,200 non-fatal overdoses in the state since January.
In 2022, the state reported that more than 400 Arkansans died due to an overdose.
Emergency personnel have administered Naloxone, which is the generic name for Narcan, over 2,700 times this year, another report from the the department said.
“There’s a lot of people that find their way out of addiction,” Willits said, “If they die from an overdose, they have no chance.”
The training will be held Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. in the Benton Police Department Training Room at 114 E. South Street, in Suite 100.
Those interested in attending would need to register by calling or texting Willits at (501) 326-5222.
THE OVERDOSE RESPONSE TEAM
This is the second Narcan training the department has hosted, he said.
The trainings were made possible due to a grant awarded to the overdose response team that allowed them to buy Narcan kits to give out at the end of the training, Willits said.
“I’m the person that’s really helping develop [the team],” Willits said.
The team is made up of himself and an overdose investigator with support from the department's chain of command that reaches up to the chief, Willits said.
Beyond educating others about addiction and Narcan, another goal of the overdose response team is to provide hope to those in addiction.
“A lot of times to them it seems hopeless; it’s important to let them know that they can find a way out and that we’re here to help them,” Willits said.
“People in that situation, a lot of the time, can be scared of the police. So, they’re not going to be scared of me and I can help them in that way.”
Willits said he can provide peer support to those struggling with substance abuse, as well as provide referrals to mental health resources for those in need.
He said he always likes to remind Arkansans of the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act, which allows people to seek medical assistance for an overdose without the fear of prosecution.
“Officers will still take any drugs they find, but they won’t prosecute you for seeking help,” he said.
Willits said working to establish an overdose response team for the Benton Police Department helps address the stigma of both those addicted to drugs and law enforcement.
“I think it important because I am a person, myself, who is in long-term recovery from addiction,” Willits said, “It fixes a lot of stigma on the people like me, who are in recovery, but also the stigma on police officers. People don’t realize they’re doing their jobs because they want to help people. But, people, when they’re using substances, they don’t see it as help.”
He said his experiences help him connect with people in need of assistance.
“I am able to help them help people,” Willits said.