Harm Reduction Educator Who Trained Thousands To Use Narcan Loses Addiction Battle

By Victoria Kim 10/08/19

Kevin Donovan died on September 28 at the age of 40.

harm reduction educator Kevin Donovan
Photo via YouTube

The Syracuse harm reduction community is mourning the loss of advocate and educator Kevin Donovan, who died in late September of an apparent overdose.

According to his obituary, “He lost his battle with addiction following a long-term recovery.”

Donovan trained many in his community how to administer Narcan, a brand of naloxone, the opioid overdose-reversing drug.

Saving Lives

Will Murtaugh, executive director of ACR Health, said that more than 500 people that were trained by Donovan used their Narcan training. “That means, 500 people’s lives were reversed,” he said, according to WRVO.

ACR Health is a community health center with a syringe exchange and a Drug User Health Hub which offers a range of prevention and sexual health services to people of all ages. Donovan was also the founder and director of Healing Hearts Collaborative, an opioid overdose prevention program.

Kevin’s work was informed by his own experience in recovery. “To remove the stigma of the disease, he openly shared his struggles with addiction to educate others of treatment options, and he was a staunch advocate for the use of Narcan,” read his obituary.

Colleagues Speak Out

According to Murtaugh, Kevin did not seek help at his time of need despite having a supportive community around him.

“We’re all hurting a little bit, because he knows we were here for him and he could’ve come to us anytime and got that support,” he said. “This is a typical overdose. We’ve had many of them. People end up using alone, and they die alone, because they don’t have those supports around them that they need. We try, and Kevin did too, to educate everyone. Do not use alone. Do a test shot. Make sure that there is Narcan in the house.”

ACR Health lost two other staff members in 2016 and 2017.

The center supports having supervised injection facilities, also known as overdose prevention facilities, to give people a place to use under medical supervision where they can access treatment if they feel ready.

Safe Consumption Sites

A federal judge recently ruled that such facilities would not violate federal law, which the current administration tried to argue against in court. An organization in Philadelphia was on the other side of the legal fight. It now has the green light to move forward with plans to establish what would be the first overdose prevention site in the United States.

In May, Donovan was featured by WRVO for giving the Narcan training that saved a woman’s life. The woman became unresponsive inside a local business and staff members responded by administering Narcan. She was revived by the time EMT arrived.

“What made me really happy was their willingness to share their story, and to say, this is a positive thing we want to do for our community,” said Donovan at the time. “That’s a life. The stigma is so bad, sometimes this stuff happens, and people don’t want to share it, or want anything to do with it in the public vision.”

Kevin Donovan died on September 28 at the age of 40. He is survived by his son Rowan, his parents, brother and extended family.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr