The 116 lifeguards who will keep an eye on swimmers at metro area beaches operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation received new training this year on what to do if or when they come across a person suffering from a drug overdose.
“I hate that we had to add that to our training, but these lifeguards — some of them 16- or 17-year-olds — are often the first responder to come across someone who is suffering an overdose in one of our bathhouses,” DCR Commissioner Leo Roy told the Metropolitan Beaches Commission during a meeting Tuesday, according the to the State House News Service. “It is an indication of how widespread the opioid crisis is.”
DCR added the training for lifeguards “so they’re emotionally prepared if they come across someone who is suffering that tragedy,” Roy said. DCR sees the impact of the opioid crisis regularly, he added. “It is a societal problem but we at DCR encounter it every week with some unfortunate person having an overdose in one of our facilities or of course the needles that we deal with on a daily basis across our parks and across our beaches,” he said.
A total of 497 people, or more than five a day, died of confirmed or suspected opioid overdoses in Massachusetts during the first three months of 2019, the Department of Public Health reported last month. Last year, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of 2,033 Massachusetts residents.