Saving Lives through Education: Narcan Training at ICA LA
Reflections on an all-staff Narcan training held at ICA LA on June 27, 2023, written by Maya Robles.
Maya Robles is the 2023 Getty Marrow Intern for Learning & Engagement at ICA LA.
Dr. Brian Hurley and Dr. Kumar Felipe Vasudevan instructed ICA LA staff on the safe and proper use of Narcan, with speakers Robin Kellner and John Sicher on Zoom.
In an initiative to promote community safety and awareness, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA) recently hosted a transformative workshop on Naloxone, an opioid antidote more widely known as Narcan. This internal training event, held for ICA LA staff and board members, aimed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills to potentially save lives in the face of opioid overdoses. Guided by speakers Robin Kellner and John Sicher, along with Drs. Brian Hurley and Kumar Felipe Vasudevan, this workshop served as a powerful reminder of the importance of drug overdose education, broadening the scope of duty that museums play in serving their publics.
The workshop commenced with a heartfelt tribute to Zoe Kellner, Robin Kellner’s and John Sicher’s late daughter and the inspiration behind their efforts (learn about the Zoe’s Story Fund here). Zoe, a vibrant and talented young woman, tragically lost her life to an accidental drug overdose at the age of 22. Kellner’s and Sicher’s work not only serves as a memorial to Zoe but also honors her creativity, kindness and aspiration to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Kellner and Sicher joined the attendees via Zoom. Their presence served as a poignant reminder of the real-world consequences of the opioid crisis. Robin Kellner calls Narcan “a miracle drug” that provides life, hope and second chances.
“Our main message is to stress the importance of having access to Narcan in the workplace, in the home, in so many diverse locations. Think of it as another tool to keep in the first aid kit,” explained Kellner.
Following the opening remarks, two doctors, Dr. Brian Hurley, Medical Director of the Division of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and Dr. Kumar Felipe Vasudevan, Addiction Medicine Specialist at UCLA, took the mic to share their expertise on Narcan and its life-saving effects. They discussed the importance of recognizing the signs of an overdose, such as slowed breathing and unresponsiveness, and how Narcan can restore normal breath and heart function. Their presentation emphasized the critical role that Narcan plays in quickly reversing an opioid overdose, adding crucial moments to a person’s life until emergency medical personnel can arrive.
Each box of Narcan contains two doses of the drug.
One of the core objectives of the workshop was to empower participants with the skills to administer Narcan effectively. Dr. Hurley and Dr. Vasudevan guided the attendees through the process of administering the nasal spray. This hands-on training equipped the ICA LA staff and board members with the confidence and knowledge needed to provide immediate aid in emergency situations.
“It’s important to recognize that anyone can overdose at any time,” says Dr. Kumar Felipe Vasudevan, who treats individuals struggling with substance abuse on a day-to-day basis. “Yet at the same time, overdoses in Los Angeles are higher in Black and Brown communities.”
Dr. Vasudevan explains that historically, medications used to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) such as methadone and suboxone, as well as access to inpatient rehabilitation services are often available to those with a higher disposable income. Expanding access to more long-term treatments that can cross socioeconomic boundaries is imperative to the betterment of life of every Angeleno. The widespread accessibility of free Narcan is a valiant step in the right direction – it saves lives, enabling those who overdose to live and have a second chance to move forward in life.