Life-saving training - Narcan kits given to the public along with hands-on demonstration

Narcan kit demoLaconia Deputy Fire Chief Sean Riley helps a woman learn how to administer Narcan at an event Monday where the kits were given for free. (Michael Kitch/for The Laconia Daily Sun)LACONIA — "Naloxone or Narcan is not a silver bullet, but it saves lives," said Deputy Fire Chief Sean Reilly, to open an event at the Beane Conference Center yesterday, at which hands-on instruction in administering Narcan was offered, along with Narcan kits, to anyone fearing that they or others may be at risk of a fatal overdose of an opiate.

Reilly explained that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services purchased 4,500 Narcan kits to be distributed in each of the 13 regional public health networks in the state.

"We decided rather than just hand out the kits that we would offer some training in their use and bring in other resources to provide information on treatment and recovery," he said, adding that 42 kits were distributed and nearly as many people trained in their use.

The Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health hosted the event, which included representatives from Horizons Counseling Center, LRGHealthcare, Genesis Behavioral Health, ServiceLink of Belknap County, Health First Family Care Center and Stand-Up Laconia as well as Eric Adams, the Prevention, Enforcement and Treatment officer of the Laconia Police Department.

An overdose of an opiate, whether from illicit heroin or prescription medication, attacks the part of the brain that regulates respiration, causing breathing to become slow and shallow. As breathing slows, levels of carbon dioxide in the body are elevated, further slowing and ultimately stopping the breathing and heart rates. Reilly said that a person suffering an overdose will be unresponsive and have shallow breath, slow pulse, pinpoint pupils, pale skin, and blue lips or fingernails. Narcan reverses the acute effects of the opiate and restores normal breathing.

Reilly emphasized that a person faced with an apparent overdose before doing anything the very first thing a person faced with an apparent overdose should do is call 911 seeking emergency medical assistance. He explained that since Narcan is only effective for a matter of minutes, an overdose may recur after its restorative effect is exhausted.

Then, ensuring the airway is clear and pinching the victim's nose, breathe twice into their mouth before administering half a dose of Narcan into each nostril. Once Narcan has been administered, the rescue breathing should be continued every five or six seconds until the victim awakens or medical assistance arrives. If the victim fails to respond in three to five minutes, the second dose of Narcan should be administered.

The kits contain two doses of Narcan and a nasal atomizer, together with illustrated directions for preparing the Narcan. 

"The steps are quite simple," Reilly said, "but they're not intuitive. That's why we want people to have hands-on training"

Reilly said that 42 people attended the event and more than half the 100 Narcan kits were distributed. He noted that Narcan is available over the counter without a prescription at Rite Aid pharmacies.

"I'm glad to have it at hand," one woman said. "But, I hope I never have to use it."

A second event will be held in Franklin at the Besse Rowell Community Center on Thursday, Feb. 11, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

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Mind the ice, stay upright and dry

ice drill in LaconiaPlatoon 3 of the Laconia Fire Department conducts an ice drill on Lake Opechee on Monday. LFD responded to seven calls last year for people that fell through the ice. (Photo courtesy of Laconia Fire Department)

LACONIA — Along with the cold and seasonal illnesses, winter has another health hazard to unleash: ice. Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said his department will respond to many calls for people who get hurt just trying to cross their driveway. He's even more concerned about calls that require his firefighters to rescue people who test the frozen surfaces of lakes a little too early.

"We respond to slips and falls a lot," Erickson said.

A slip on the ice is something many older people fear each winter, and with good reason. A hard fall could lead to a lasting injury, one which could result in lessened mobility for the rest of the season. Erickson also worries about his firefighters falling on ice, especially because they might be working at a house fire or car accident, where walking on the ice is a part of the job.

"One of the simplest solutions is sand, one of the easiest solutions is learning how to walk on the ice." Erickson said firefighters are trained to plant their feet flat on the walking surface, and to shorten their gait, steps that will maximize traction and minimize the chance that a foot will slip out from underneath. He also suggested using ice cleats, available at most local hardware stores, which can easily be fitted over a shoe or boot, and provide great traction on slippery surfaces.

While others might be worried about ice on walkways, it's the ice on lakes that causes Erickson greater concern. Especially now that it's seasonably cold and windy, and ice is beginning to form on lakes. It might feel like it's safe to be on the lakes, but Erickson said it will be at least a couple of weeks until the ice is thick enough to support people.

In 2015, the Laconia Fire Department responded to seven calls for rescues of people that fell through the ice.

"There is ice out there, but it is not safe. It is going to take a lot of cold weather for these big lakes to freeze."

The rain that fell on Sunday would have added a lot of warm water to the lakes, Erickson noted, and the wind prevents ice sheets from covering open water. His water rescue team was recently training on Lake Opechee, which he said had about two inches of ice near the shores and shallower areas. The ice is thinner where the water gets deeper, so someone could step on the ice near the shore, think they'll be safe, then walk out to where the ice is thin. Lake Opechee is of particular worry because of its proximity to Laconia Middle School.

"One of the concerns we have at this time of year is kids seeing the ice forming," he said. "It is definitely a dangerous time of year to be out there... Parents need to reinforce that with their children."

If you should fall through the ice, Erickson said the best strategy is to try and get back on the ice you were on immediately before falling in. Crawl out of the water if possible, but don't struggle for several minutes if it's too difficult to get back onto the ice, because using up all your energy will lead to a quicker onset of hypothermia. Get at least your torso out onto the ice and wait for help. Erickson added, chances of survival will be helped if you aren't alone.

"Hopefully, someone saw you and called 9-1-1 and we can come get you and pull you out."

Laconia tax cap makes budgeting for school district difficult

LACONIA — As he sat in a local breakfast diner near McIntyre Circle, Mike Persson of the Laconia School District and member of the Budget and Personnel Committee spoke both directly and philosophically about preparing a level-services school budget for next year, which, by all estimates, will be about $1 million short next year.

Noting he can't speak for the whole committee, Persson said one of the issues with preparing next year's budget is factoring in the cuts made by the city council to the past two years' budgets. The City Council cut $60,000 from the 2014-2015 budget and cut an additional $100,000 from this year's budget.

The 2015 -2016 budget totals $38,085,000 with about $18.4 million being raised through local property taxes.

Persson calls it the multiplier effect, meaning every time one budget is cut it means the base budget used to calculate new money as a factor of how the city's tax cap works, is lower than it would have been without the cuts.

"Expenditure cuts below the tax cap erodes services over time because of the tax cap," he said, adding he applied a theory brought forth by the Columbia Business School regarding Massachusetts's Proposition 2 ½ and declining property values over time. Specifically, the study notes that about 208 communities in the years 1990 to 1994 were forced to override Prop 2 ½ to meet community, especially school district, needs.

Yet, said Persson, the school is bound by collective bargaining agreements that include step raises and cost-of-living increases coupled with never-ending increases to the costs of health insurance. The district is beginning its negotiations with the three unions whose contracts expire in June.

School budgets, said Persson, are further complicated by the unknown factor of special education costs, which is the item that could cause the school district to nearly deplete its special education trust fund this year.

Persson calls the cuts "arbitrary" because the city council didn't say what should be cut, but just gave the School Board a dollar amount with the stipulation in 2015-2016 that it couldn't come from contributions to one of the many trust funds the schools use for emergencies, like the special education trust fund or the building maintenance trust fund.

"I stood before the City Council last year when they cut the $100,000," he said Saturday. "I told them we may be able to cut it for this year but that it would make it much more difficult to meet the district's needs for future years."

"I told them that now, [meaning last year,] was not the time to reduce the districts budget but was the time to build reserves so that we can effectively manage future budgets," he said.

Persson said both the School Board and the City Council knew last year that the Consumer Price Index Urban or CPIU – a measure of inflation – used to calculate one portion of how much the city can raise through property taxes was going to be negligible. School District Business Administrator Ed Emond said the CPIU being used to calculate the 2016-2017 budget is 0.1 percent,  or next to nothing.

Persson also told the City Council that the CPIU is a national measure of inflation and does not necessarily reflect the New Hampshire or even New England's rate of inflation.

School District Business Administrator Emond said last week the total amount the school district will be able to raise through taxation is about $350,000, which means that to put forward a level-services budget, the amount that could be raised through local property taxes will leave the district short about $1 million.

Persson said he knows the school district would still come up short on the revenue side even without the previous year's cuts, but, by his calculations, the shortage would be about $380,000 less if its budget hadn't been cut in prior years.

He also agrees that the city shouldn't override the tax cap that he says has done a good job at keeping property taxes level and taming any large increases in rates.

"Nobody wants to override the tax cap," he said.

While the Budget and Personnel Committee looks at expenses that can be cut, Persson is also advocating for a more aggressive look by the school district at alternative sources of revenue.

First among them are public-private programming endeavors. As an example, a good portion of the Huot Technical Center science and technology program was built with a large donation from the late Richard Dearborn the owner of Eptam Plastics.

Persson suggested at the Budget and Personnel meeting that the district should look at more programs like that where community partners, like LRGHealthcare, the Lakes Region Community College, and private businesses would contribute to education programs that would help them have a large pool of qualified job applicants.

He also suggested more aggressive grant seeking. The committee identified three individuals within the school district, including Asst. Superintendent Kirk Beitler, and Huot Director Dave Warrander who are especially adept at finding pertinent grants for LHS and Huot Center programming.

During that conversation, Persson also said the district may have to look at user fees for some after-school programs, like sports, band, and drama, and from only those families that can afford them.

He said the Columbia study said many Massachusetts families pay user fees for after-school activities and that many families in Laconia spend a lot of money on summer camps to hone their children's skills.

"But they still get their essential components for free through taxes," he said.

Persson said the school district should do a better job of coordinating all of the fundraising efforts for individual class projects. He said the school district has not idea where all of these clubs come from, except for donations made through the United Way and the Children's Auction.

People are exhausted from having multiple hands out, he said, saying that in some cases money could be going to organizations that don't need it.