Parents of opioid addicts volunteer to help others; 'I empathize with what they're going through'

Vicki King keeps her Hope Not Handcuffs T-shirt in her car at all times in case she is called to help.

She is an angel volunteer for the program Hope Not Handcuffs started by FAN, Families against Narcotics. FAN partners with law enforcement and community organizations to get help for people addicted to opioids.

"What we do is through police departments we help people with problems with addictions. They can come into a police department, they'll call one of us angels, and we'll come out, no incarcerations, no nothing, no questions asked. We will make the calls and get them placement in the treatment they are looking for," King said.

King volunteers in memory of her son who died from a heroin overdose.

"It's very fulfilling. I feel really good about it," King said. "The first couple times I did it I went back to my car and had a good cry, because I could empathize with what they're going through, because with my son I can understand all that."

Teaching Narcan use

John Mattarella donates his time to teaching people how to use Narcan, the drug that can temporarily block the effects of opioids such as prescription pain pills and heroin. He does it because he knows firsthand the difficulties and struggle that comes with having a loved one who is an addict.

His son Anthony became addicted to prescription pain pills after an injury. That addiction eventually grew to include heroin.

Mattarella and his family are an example of how this opioid epidemic can affect anyone, anywhere.

"I come from a typical all-American family," Mattarella told the crowd at a recent training session. "Not divorced, no strife in the family, soccer coach, did all the right things, went to church, we had dinner, we read to our children, all those things ... my son became an opioid addict."

Mattarella turned to Families Against Narcotics to help him and his family during their son's addiction.

"This group was extremely helpful in getting me back my life within my family," Mattarella said.

Grateful for the support, Mattarella now volunteers his time, using his expertise as a nurse anesthetist to teach people how to use the Narcan nasal spray. FAN offers free classes to the public. Mattarella says teaching the general public how to use Narcan is very important to help save a loved one's life.

Narcan temporarily blocks the effects of the opioid until emergency medical services can arrive. When it works, the addict can go into acute narcotic withdrawal, which that can last quite some time.

"This is an emergency situation where an opioid addict has taken too much and they have stopped their breathing or slowed their breathing down and they need to have it reversed," Mattarella said. "They die if they are not given this reversal of the opioid."

"If someone is struggling with addiction, every family member should absolutely have this on hand, in their home, carry it around at all times," said Katie Donovan, executive vice president of FAN.

Everyone who attends the training gets a free Narcan kit to take with them.

For more information on Families Against Narcotics and the programs they offer, including Hope Not Handcuffs, click here

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