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Billings vape shop training employees to administer Narcan

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Posted at 9:49 PM, Aug 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-23 12:08:43-04

BILLINGS - B-Town Vapes & Glass is one of the few businesses open on Broadwater Avenue in Billings until midnight.

The store has seen many people come to the store with fentanyl overdoses, so management wants employees trained and ready to help.

The store's owner, Nicholas Tietz, used to be a paramedic and has observed people overdosing on fentanyl.

"Seems like they're dead or gray," Tietz said Tuesday. "They're sometimes purple and they're not breathing. It's definitely one of those situations that it's very life-threatening."

He added, "Our employees are having to be basically a first responder having to call 911 or perform CPR. And it's very tough on them, emotionally."

Tietz wants to make it easier on his employees and also save lives.

So he ordered some free Narcan or Naxolone, which are administered to reverse opioid overdoses, from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

"We've had an incident before where they don't get out or anything but someone has passed out in their car," said Tori Chandler, B-Town's district manager. "CPR was administered and an ambulance had to be called but it could have easily been just a Narcan administration."

Last year, Montana had 77 fentanyl overdoses, according to Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen's office, and an additional 48 have been recorded this year.

B-Town management called RiverStone Health to quickly train B-Town employees to use Narcan.

"You put it up the nose you just push it and then it just sprays Narcan up into the nasal passage which gets absorbed into the brain," said Erica Jarussi, Riverstone Health prevention health specialist.

Sometimes more than one dose will be necessary, but it's a medicine RiverStone Health says saves lives.

Jarussi said there are no negative effects from Narcan.

It is suggested that everyone have Narcan because it will also help with an accidental overdose of a prescribed opioid medication.

It's difficult to get a good estimate on how many lives are saved and the number of overdoses.

"Probably three-quarters of overdoses go unreported because a lot of the community if they're doing illicit drugs, they're not going to call 911 for help," Jarussi said.

And that's why B-Town wants its three stores to be a place where people can get Narcan.

"If anyone comes in and asks about it, it's theirs for the taking," said Chandler. "No questions asked. Judgment-free zone."