How the downtown Reno ambassadors helped save a life with Narcan

A few days before Christmas, the Reno Police and Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors teamed up with Project Help Nevada to hand out toys, blankets and gloves to children in the motels and homeless people in the city’s core. The day quickly changed when two partnership ambassadors, Joy Klingenfuss and Jeremy Lambert, found a man on the City Plaza riverfront steps suffering from a medical emergency.

“He was inebriated and had labored breathing,” Joy said.

Jeremy immediately called 911 while Joy kept the man, Kevin, alert and calm. The emergency dispatcher told Jeremy his symptoms were consistent with opioid overdose and told him to administer Narcan, an overdose reversal medicine made of naloxone HCl.

“Narcan Nasal Spray counteracts the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose,” according to Narcan’s manufacturer. “Since most accidental overdoses occur in a home setting, it was developed for first responders, as well as family, friends and caregivers — with no medical training required.”

The Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors were trained how to use Narcan by The Life Change Center’s MORE team two weeks ago. The team, headed by Lisa Lee and Jennifer Cassady, uses Narcan during their outreach work. Now, all the ambassadors carry two doses of Narcan with them as they make their rounds through downtown Reno.


Lisa Lee and Jennifer Cassady from The Life Change Center, trained Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors to use Narcan.
Lisa Lee and Jennifer Cassady from The Life Change Center, trained Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors to use Narcan. Photo by Mike Higdon
Two Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors, Joy Klingenfuss and Jeremy Lambert, pose for a photo at the Downtown Reno Partnership headquarters on Plaza and Center streets. Photo by Mike Higdon

Jeremy and Joy used it in the field for the first time on Dec. 22 after the 911 dispatcher told them to. Joy said her previous experience and training in security with Sands Regency Hotel Casino and with Allied Universal helped keep her calm with Kevin.

“I was nervous,” she said. “But, it’s common sense and keeping a level head and using your training all bunched into one.”

Jeremy, an ambassador supervisor, said his previous Navy training and security work also helped him know how to remain calm so he could flag down the ambulances and communicate clearly with first responders. As Kevin’s breathing stabilized, Jeremy told REMSA and Reno Fire Department ambulances what happened, gave them the Narcan container that listed dosage and ingredients so they could take over.

“Eventually someone probably would’ve called 911 for him, but anything could’ve happened,” Joy said. “I couldn’t tell what he had taken, but if he was overdosing he could’ve died right there. Or he might’ve also stood up, then tripped and fallen into the river.”

The ambassadors learned that Narcan can be used when they see overdose symptoms, even if the cause of the symptoms are from something else. Narcan can cause withdrawal symptoms, but don’t effect people suffering a different medical emergency.

After Narcan is used, medical supervision and additional steps may be necessary to stabilize a person, according to Narcan’s manufacturer. The REMSA and RFD teams took Kevin to the hospital for treatment.

“This is another thing the ambassadors do every day, in addition to hospitality and keeping downtown clean,” said Alex Stettinski, executive director of the Downtown Reno Partnership. “Even though Narcan doesn’t solve the underlying issues with the opioid crisis, I’m happy our ambassadors are trained to save lives with this important emergency tool. We hope to continue building partnerships with the community to bring attention to downtown Reno’s needs.”

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