Why I organized Narcan training for journalists

Solutions Journalism used to be sort of a buzz word, a trend. I’d show up to conferences and inevitably find a session about it, half of which was spent explaining the concept and answering questions that started with, “No, this isn’t advocacy.”

My goal as an editor is to produce as much service journalism as our small team can — skip the what and go straight to the why, how and what’s next. Solutions-based reporting is key here. I’m currently working with editors around Philadelphia on the Reentry Project, a solutions-based reporting collaborative about returning citizens and life after prison. The reporter on my team spends time with former inmates talking about the programs and lifestyles that support them after prison. Until recently, my professional interest on solutions stopped there. We have a small team working in a large city — not a combination conducive to creating the in-depth and investigating reporting often required for solutions journalism.

But I often encourage fellow journalists to define our work more broadly. Events can be journalism. A collection and analysis of social media posts can be journalism. So can, say, teaching reporters how to administer an overdose-reversing drug called Narcan. Here’s a quick explainer on Narcan for those unfamiliar.

Philadelphia is in the middle of an epidemic. You probably watched Dr. Oz swoop into the city’s “heroin hellscape,” or saw what became national news coverage of the librarians who encounter so many overdoses they’ve been trained to use Narcan. But every single day, journalists in Philadelphia — and many other cities — are reporting on this national crisis. Those reporters know the names and personal histories of people with addiction and drug abuse problems. They write heartbreaking stories of loss and hopeful tales of recovery. But what would they do if they encountered someone during an overdose?

I won’t get into a journalism ethics debate about administering Narcan, because there isn’t one to be had. If you can save a life, you should. If you encountered any person in distress, you’d call 911, right? You’d put down the pen or the camera or the recorder and call for help. If you see someone overdosing, you can do even more.

So last weekend, at the ninth annual Klein News Innovation Camp, I invited fellow journalists to receive Narcan training from Elvis Rosado, education and outreach coordinator for Prevention Point Philadelphia. We gathered in a classroom at Temple University and talked about addiction, opiates and signs of distress. And then we learned how to administer Narcan, deliver rescue breaths and potentially save lives. I went to Walgreens a few days later and picked up my prescription. The price varies, but for just a $7 copay I walked out with two doses of it, which I now keep in my purse. I hope I never have to use it, but I’m glad I know how.

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Shannon Wink

Shannon Wink is a Philadelphian and experienced reporter, editor, community manager and content marketer.

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