DC officials spread the word about Narcan treatment after rash of overdoses

D.C. first responders and health officials are urging people to get educated about anti-overdose drugs after 10 people overdosed on fentanyl and three died in Southwest D.C. Friday.

Police Chief Robert Contee at a news conference Monday identified two of the victims as Gloria Hamilton, 72, and Lawrence Lucas, 69. The third person who died has not been publicly identified yet.

D.C. Fire Chief John Donnelly said Fire and EMS responders got the first in a series of sick-person and overdose calls at about 11:15 a.m. Friday, and began contacting the police, the Department of Behavioral Health and the office of Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen to tell them “there was a problem.”

Contee, Donnelly and Barbara Bazron, director of the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, all implored District residents to learn about the anti-overdose drug Narcan, saying it can save lives.

All first responders carry Narcan, Contee said, adding that since 2019, police have given 1,800 doses. “That’s 1,800 lives that have been saved.”

Donnelly said that if you see someone overdosing, no matter what situation you’re in, “Let us come help you. Nothing bad’s gonna happen. We may save your life. Let us help.”

Contee agreed: “That is not the time to worry whether someone is getting in trouble. That is the time to save someone’s life.”

Bazron said residents can get a supply of Narcan by texting LiveLongDC to 888-811. You don’t need to show identification or a prescription, and it’s free.

“We will deliver it to your house, or we will mail it to you,” Bazron added.

Law enforcement officials took a different tone in speaking about the people who sell fentanyl.

Jarod Forget, the special agent in charge of the D.C. Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, called dealing fentanyl “a violent crime.” He and Contee said that earlier this month, a suspected dealer in a different overdose case was charged with the federal crime of distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Both men said it was the first time such charges had been leveled.

Allen, the D.C. Council member for the neighborhood in which the overdoses happened, said the District would respond with accountability for those who put “lethal” drugs in the community, as well as treatment for those struggling with addiction.

“On Friday afternoon we had a mass casualty event,” Allen said, adding that his office and the community would be supporting the families of the victims “for weeks, months and years to come.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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