Tiverton officers’ first Narcan use saves overdosed man

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TIVERTON — Tiverton police have had the drug overdose medication Narcan in their cruisers for about eight months, been trained in its use, and on Friday, Feb. 3, they finally got to give it a try.

Three Tiverton police officers, Kurt Ripke, Marco Valzavano, and David Ayers, responded just after midnight to a house on Cliff Street for a report of an unresponsive person.

Inside, they found a 24-year-old man “who was blue and not breathing,” said Police Captain Patrick Jones.

“Family members were administering CPR” but the man was not responding.

The officers continued the CPR and then administered the nasal spray form of Narcan that they had brought. The medication, combined with CPR, can reverse the effects of opioids which, in an overdose, can interfere with the proper rhythms of heart and lungs, potentially leading to death.

They were helped by the fact that the family also had a Narcan kit; the officers were also able to use the remainder of that, which may have helped.

“I credit the family for recognizing that their young son has a problem and taking this step to try to help,” Capt. Jones said. “And I credit the officers; their training kicked in and they did an outstanding job.”

In the meantime, Tiverton Fire Department rescuers, who had been on another call, arrived, as did Fall River rescuers.

But by then the combination of Narcan and CPR were taking effect.

Scarcely 10 minutes after police arrived, the man suddenly began breathing, sat up and hugged the officers by his side, Capt. Jones said.

“This young man was effectively dead,” he added, “and just 10 minutes later he was hugging the police officer and thanking him.”

He added that even though they had been trained in the use of Narcan, the officers were surprised by how quickly and well it worked.

While Tiverton firefighters have been using Narcan for a number of years, police officers here began carrying it last March.

"I hope this young man respects and appreciates what these officers did to save his life and that he doesn’t throw his life away,” Capt. Jones said.

He added that this area and much of the nation are in the midst of an opioid crisis. “We see it way too often … the potency of these drugs is so terribly high.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.