As Hartford faces record number of fatal overdoses, community groups offer free Narcan training

FILE PHOTO: After Hartford experienced a record 117 fatal overdoses last year, community groups are planning a free Narcan training session next week.

FILE PHOTO: After Hartford experienced a record 117 fatal overdoses last year, community groups are planning a free Narcan training session next week.

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

HARTFORD — After the city saw a record 117 fatal overdoses in 2022, a coalition of community partners is planning a free overdose response training next week.

The training on how to use Narcan, which reverses the effects of an overdose, will be held Feb. 3 at the Wholeness House in Hartford.

"You don't have to have any background in this," said Kamora Herrington, Hartford advocate who is helping to organize the event. "That's probably the most important part of this. Because we need to keep our people alive. And people are overdosing. They're dying. And the amount of fentanyl out there is ridiculous."

The 117 fatal overdoses last year in Hartford followed 113 overdoses in 2021, up from 98 in 2020, according to data from the state Department of Public Health. In 2022, 99 of Hartford's fatal overdoses involved fenanyl. Fatal overdoses in Hartford have been climbing since the database launched in 2015 when there were 43 fatal overdoses.

The training was coordinated by Herrington's organization, Kamora's Cultural Corner, as well as a Manchester harm reduction group that secured the Narcan.

Erin Doolittle, licensed marriage and family therapist, said the Wholeness House is a recovery space that offers counseling to help people dealing with various issues ranging from post traumatic stress disorder to addiction. 

"On this one, we're gonna break down for you like, what are the signs of an overdose, how to administer — which is very easy — and then what to do after," Doolittle said. "When you administer Narcan to someone, they don't sit up and thank you, you know, they're going to be terrified. They might come up swinging, like you have to be prepared for whatever and you still have to call 911."

Doolittle and Herrington pointed out that drug overdoses are a widespread issue that often ends up in Hartford's hands.

"The majority of the human beings affected by these issues are not from the city and they end up being dumped on us," Herrington said. "This training is happening in Hartford. This training will benefit us all."

Hartford saw the most fatal overdoses in 2022 of any Connecticut city except New Haven. Nearby East Hartford saw 21 fatal overdoses in 2022 and West Hartford had 10. There were two fatal overdoses in Bloomfield and three in Wethersfield. 

Herrington said it's important to recognize fatal overdoses are a growing problem and help equip more people to be part of the solution.

"Everyone holds responsibility," Herrington said. "And I'm here as a community member, and I love my community. So I'm going to figure out how to keep my people alive."

Doolittle said the organizers hope to hold bi-monthly training, but warned that securing Narcan can be a challenge. 

"I hear almost every day about yet another overdose, and the lack of Narcan," Doolittle said. "How crazy it is that we have this thing that can instantly basically save a life and no one has any."

The free training, open to anyone 18 and older, will be held Feb. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 12 Charter Oak Place in Hartford. To register, email kamora@kamorasculturalcorner.com

emily.disalvo@hearstmediact.com