When the Wagner Realty team realized how hard the opioid epidemic is hitting Manatee County, they decided to step in and help.
On Thursday, Wagner Realty will host the 2017 Golf Classic at Bradenton Country Club. The Golf Classic is a fundraiser for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and the funds will go toward equipping Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies with naloxone, more commonly known under the brand name Narcan. The drug immediately reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
Wagner Realty’s 2017 Golf Classic will raise money for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to equip its deputies with Narcan, a life-saving opioid overdose antidote
The son of David Eckel, president and owner of Wagner Realty, is a police captain in another state and a visit from him spurred the idea, Wagner operations manager Natalie Russell said. Earlier this year, Wagner Realty arranged a donation to the newly formed Bradenton Blue Foundation that helped establish a scholarship fund for officers’ higher education.
“We did that, and I said, ‘Let’s show the sheriff’s office some love,’ ” Russell said.
The Bradenton Blue Foundation, a joint effort of the Manatee Community Foundation and the Bradenton Police Department, raises funds to benefit the BPD. A $5,000 grant from the foundation went to BPD, and another $20,000 grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will help the department buy Narcan. The FDLE grant will also be used to fund some Narcan kits for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Palmetto Police Department.
Narcan for K-9s
MCSO currently carries Narcan kits in case one of its nine K-9s overdoses on opioids during an investigation. The nine kits were funded by a private donation. Sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow said they’re working on setting up the deputy kits given to them by BPD while also looking into other funding to equip all deputies with Narcan.
“The thing about Narcan you have to remember — with K-9s, it’s not as much because we don’t anticipate the dogs getting into that situation that much — but with deputies, you don’t know,” Bristow said. “You may go one night on a couple of OD calls in the same night, so in other words, you have to replenish that. So we have to think about that.”
Deputies may also have to use Narcan on each other or themselves if they come into contact with drugs.
Narcan isn’t cheap, and though the fundraiser held by Wagner Realty won’t solve MCSO or any other police department’s long-term funding concern with the life-saving drug, it’s a step in the right direction.
“Any little bit helps,” Bristow said.
$43.79 cost to Manatee County Emergency Medical Services per dose of Narcan
Drugs ‘just insane’
It’s not just that one dose of Narcan is expensive, but because of the nature of the types of opioid drugs now on the streets, saving a life often requires more than one dose of Narcan.
Heath Martin, 37, once struggled with addiction and recently celebrated two years and two months sober. Martin was revived with Narcan a total of nine times before he decided to seek out recovery.
Each of the nine times, Martin said, only one dose of Narcan was needed to revive him.
“Now with the stuff that’s out there, it’s taking three to four doses,” Martin said. “It’s getting out of hand, seriously.”
Martin described carfentanil, an opioid analog now found on the streets that’s made for use in large animals such as elephants, as “just insane.”
When Narcan is used to revive someone struggling with addiction, they’re not instantly cured and free of the illness that led to the Narcan episode. Martin said he remembers waking up angry one time after a Narcan revival, “Because they just brought you out of what you worked so hard to get to. And that’s the mindset. It’s sickening.”
To take someone from a Narcan revival straight into recovery, the public opinion surrounding addiction has to change, said Joshua Barnett, health care services manager for the Manatee County Department of Neighborhood Services.
“Each time should be treated as an opportunity to engage them into treatment or into recognizing that they have a disorder,” Barnett said. “A substance use disorder; an unfortunately now-common substance use disorder, and that their character isn’t flawed.”
One immediate step for paramedics and law enforcement to take, Barnett said, is to explain why Narcan was used to revive the affected person.
“Sometimes these folks don’t know what’s in their system,” he said.
Other change needed
Even after the ninth Narcan episode, Martin didn’t stop. He’s glad the overdose-reversal drug exists and is used to save the lives of people he hopes will choose recovery. But Narcan alone will not solve the opioid epidemic.
Barnett suggested several changes that, made together, can contribute to ending what’s now known as the opioid epidemic, including the way addiction is viewed and addressed by law enforcement and other community partners, terminology used to discuss it in the media, pain mitigation techniques prescribed by doctors and the education provided to those struggling with addiction about options for treatment and where they can find community support.
On the individual level, there’s one factor often needed that family and friends understandably aren’t willing to endorse: time.
“It’s hard because until someone’s fully ready to change, they’re not going to to do it, no matter what you do, you can’t force them to do it,” Martin said.
The fellowship he’s found in his recovery program keeps his sobriety going. He wants to take every opportunity to share it with others who are “stuck in a state of mind that’s not right.”
“Personally, I bring meetings into institutions,” Martin said. “For me, it’s all about giving back. If I can help one person, man, then I’m happy.”
Susie Bowie, executive director at the Manatee Community Foundation, agrees that helping those struggling with addiction requires a holistic, community approach.
“We need everybody, from businesses, nonprofits and individual donors, to be involved in this issue,” Bowie said.
We need everybody, from businesses, nonprofits and individual donors, to be involved in this issue
Susie Bowie, executive director, Manatee Community Foundation
More than 70 businesses are supporting the Golf Classic through sponsorships or donated auction items. Additional sponsors and auction items are still welcome and can be arranged by calling Denise Feeney at 941-727-2800.
Individuals can also make donations in any dollar amount by filling out the Golf Classic donation form found on the Wagner Realty Facebook page at facebook.com/WagnerRealty or by dropping off a check made out to Wagner Realty in an envelope labeled “2017 Golf Classic” at any Wagner Realty location.
Individual golfer spots are full, but as of Friday, Russell said there was room for two more four-person golf teams. Any interested group can register and pay the $500 (plus $30 for each individual lunch) by Tuesday at any Wagner Realty location.
The Wagner Realty 2017 Golf Classic
Who: Wagner Realty, more than 70 area businesses, individual golfers and four-person golf teams
What: An 18-hole golf tournament preceded by breakfast and followed by lunch, golf awards, a silent auction and raffle results
When: Thursday, Sept. 7, with breakfast and registration beginning at 8 a.m., tournament start at 9 a.m. and lunch at 1 p.m.
Where: The Bradenton Country Club, 4646 Ninth Ave. W., Bradenton
Why: To raise money for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to use to equip deputies with Narcan
How you can contribute: Businesses can sponsor or donate auction items by calling Denise Feeney at 941-727-2800. Individuals can also make donations in any dollar amount by filling out the Golf Classic donation form found on the Wagner Realty Facebook page at facebook.com/WagnerRealty or by dropping off a check made out to Wagner Realty in an envelope labeled “2017 Golf Classic” at any Wagner Realty location.