By Danny Schrafel
A 20-year-old who overdosed on heroin in a bathroom stall at the Northport Public Library narrowly escaped death Friday thanks to a serendipitous chain of events and a powerful drug antidote in the hands of first responders.
Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal said that the young man, who has not been identified, was saved after rescuers treated him with the opiate antidote Narcan.
Officers in the department became certified to carry the overdose-reversing drug in mid-April, and in this case, the young man “would be dead” without it, Bruckenthal said.
“He was taking his last breath,” the chief added.
Bruckenthal said village police received a call to the library at 5:18 p.m. for an “unconscious male.” Officers accompanied the Northport Fire Department on the call, as they normally do for ambulance responses. Once they found the patient, they quickly realized what had transpired.
“When they turned him over and the needle fell out of his leg, they kind of put two and two together,” Bruckenthal said.
If it wasn’t for a local runner being in the right place at the right time “by happenstance,” though, the case would likely have been a fatal drug overdose.
“A local jogger who runs through the neighborhood went into the bathroom and saw the one kid reach under the stall,” Bruckenthal said, explaining that surveillance video showed the 20-year-old entering the library with two others – a male and a female.
Soon after, the man told police that he heard moaning from the stall. After asking the person in the stall if he was OK and receiving no response, the jogger rushed upstairs and told library staff, who immediately called 911.
Before police arrived, the staff opened the bathroom stall latch, allowing officers to immediately begin treating him.
“The library did everything right,” Bruckenthal said.
The patient and his companions that night were known to Northport High School drug counselor Anthony Ferrandino and were the subject of previous intervention efforts, Bruckenthal said.
The apparent struggle with drug abuse and addiction in the patient underscored the ravages of an ongoing heroin crisis that has gripped Long Island in recent years and hit especially close to home this week.
Trustee Damon McMullen, who also serves as the village police commissioner, said the village and Chief Bruckenthal plan to work with the Northport-East Northport School District during the 2014-2015 school year to “really try to come up with some program where police officers will go visit, talk with the kids and try to deal with this problem.”
The trustee said the current crisis, blamed on a wave of cheap, potent heroin the metropolitan area, brings back grim memories of a crisis decades ago when he was a high school student.
“When I grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we used to have a major heroin problem out here,” McMullen said. “People I went to high school overdosed, and they didn’t make it.”