Some picture dope fiends.
They beg. They threaten. They steal.
They don’t get their boat captain license at the age of 36.
They overdose and die and no one cares.
But people do care. The mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers who shepherded them through their struggle with addiction care.
And these family members want Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to care.
All he has to do, they say, is arm deputies with Narcan.
“You matter,” recovery community leader Lissa Franklin said Thursday at a rally that drew about 40 people to the sheriff’s Palm Beach Gardens executive offices. “We’re fighting for you.”
The holder of the boat captain license, Brian Hannan, overdosed and died in West Palm Beach in September, just a year after obtaining his license, his obituary said. Back in Philadelphia, he had been an all-Catholic athlete in football, baseball, and wrestling.
His mother, Linda Adams who attended the rally but lives in Philadelphia, said she believes that if the officer who responded to her son’s overdose had been armed with Narcan, her son would be alive.
Because her son overdosed in West Palm, the sheriff’s office would not have been involved. But the sheriff’s office says it rarely responds first to overdose calls. Those calls, spokeswoman Teri Barbera said, are dispatched to the county’s fire-rescue department.
She cited a study that showed that fire-rescue responds first to 99 percent of calls. But that study was conducted about 10 years ago, she said.
At the rally, family members and advocates disputed the study and said in their experience police often are first on the scene.
‘Overdose is reversible, death is not’
Even if deputies respond to just 1 percent of the calls, “there’s zero acceptable losses,” said Franklin, who is vice president of the Southeast Florida Recovery Advocates, one of the rally’s sponsors.
During the two-and-a-half-hour rally, participants carried posters with hundreds of names of people who died locally from opioid overdoses. They handed out twin packs of Narcan and held up signs, including one saying “Overdose is reversible. Death is not.”
One mother whose son has been saved by Narcan can see it from the police officer’s point of view. Staci Katz of Our2Sons served years ago on the New York City police force but now lives in Boynton Beach.
“How do they feel when they get to the scene and they don’t have what they need?” she asked about the law enforcement officer who isn’t allowed to carry Narcan. “We would never be able to live with it if we couldn’t save someone.”
Revived her son with Narcan
Linda Obermeyer of Loxahatchee had never attended a rally before.
Her son, Nick, who battled addiction for 22 years, died in October 2020 from an overdose at age 36.
Obermeyer, a retired nurse, knows firsthand how easy it was to save his life by administering the nasal spray that contains naloxone. He had been revived four times in a two-week period. Once she revived him at her home at 2 in the morning. She understood the grip opioids had over him. She just wanted him to live long enough to get well.
But one day she left the house for six hours and when she returned, he had overdosed and died.
In her son’s case, it was unlikely police armed with Narcan could have helped. So why did his mother show up at the rally?
“Just to make the public aware of how important Narcan is,” Obermeyer said. “It saved his (Nick’s) life so many times.”
The rally went off free of interference from police, except at the start when a Palm Beach Gardens police sergeant explained to organizers that they couldn’t gather at the foot of Bradshaw’s building, one of the twin DiVosta Towers topped by pyramids near Downtown Palm Beach Gardens.
The office buildings, which sold for $80 million in 2020 to a New York company, are on private property. Bradshaw leases an entire floor there for himself and top executives while PBSO’s main administration building on Gun Club Road is rebuilt.
The sheriff signed a four-year, $2 million lease with a one-year extension for the space, The Palm Beach Post reported in August 2020.
Rather than contest the police, organizers set up on public property at the corner of Alternate A1A and Kyoto Gardens Road, with the pyramid towers in the background.
© 2022 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.