Life-saving efforts lead to first-ever award

A 20-year-old West Chester University student has defied the belief that a single person can make a difference: Ninety-one people’s lives were saved in Chester County in less than two years because of his efforts.

Ethan Healey

Robert Kagel (from left), state Rep. Dan Truitt; state Sen. Andy Dinniman, Ethan Healey, Ernie Holling, and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello pose at the CCATO conference.

Ethan Healey of West Chester would be the first to insist that he received assistance from many others; however, it was his initiative and passion that led the Chester County Association of Township Officials (CCATO) to present him with the organization’s first-ever President’s Award for Meritorious Service.

Healey, the manager of Project Naloxone, received the award at CCATO’s Fall Conference at the Mendenhall Inn on Thursday, Nov. 10. “I almost fainted,” Healey said. “It was quite a shock.”

The CCATO award goes to an individual or organization that performs an outstanding service for the residents of Chester County. Healey, the law enforcement liaison at Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute, worked to ensure that first-responders had access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, a spray that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, according to a CCATO press release.

“Ethan’s determination to make Narcan available throughout Chester County has resulted in more than 90 cases since January 2015 where the administration of Narcan has reversed the effect of a potentially deadly opioid overdose,” Ernie Holling, president of CCATO, said in the release. “His focus is now on educating and deploying Narcan in schools throughout the county, to increase awareness, and potentially to save even more lives.”

Healey has also worked with legislators to give members of the public access to Narcan and to assure that Good Samaritan laws protect individuals who administer Narcan. In the past, when someone called 911 because a friend or associate had overdosed, they risked prosecution for drug offenses.

In 2014, Good Fellowship took the lead in organizing Project Naloxone, a program designed to provide all 45 police departments and law-enforcement agencies throughout Chester County with the training and medication to reverse opioid overdoses. Since 1990, drug overdoses have nearly tripled nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2014, 57 men and women in Chester County died from an accidental overdose of heroin, fentanyl or other opioids; they ranged in age from 17 to 63. In 2015, overdoses claimed the lives of 56 victims in the county, ranging in age from 18 to 72, according to statistics provided recently by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.

Healey, a full-time student majoring in business management at West Chester University, also works full-time as a telecommunications officer with the West Goshen Police Department. He explained that he generally has enough down time on the 3 to 11 p.m. shift that he can get some of his schoolwork done.

He is also a member of the board of directors at Good Fellowship and achieved certification as a state emergency medical technician instructor in 2014. He received certification as an EMT when he was 16, the release said.

“His hard work and commitment makes him a very worthy recipient of this first CCATO President’s Award,” Holling said in the release.

At Thursday night’s presentation, Healey also received certificates of recognition from Sen. Pat Toomey on behalf of the U.S. Senate, Rep. Ryan Costello on behalf of the House, state Sen. Andy Dinniman on behalf of the Pennsylvania Senate, state Rep. Dan Truitt on behalf of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Chester County Emergency Services Director Robert Kagel on behalf of the Chester County.

For his part, Healey expressed appreciation for the recognition but is still shaking his head about how CCATO managed to pull off such a surprise.

“I didn’t suspect a thing,” he said. “Ernie Holling asked me if I would come to the conference and set up a table” with educational materials about Narcan. Healey said he had worked with Holling in his quest to get Narcan training and materials into the schools.

“They did a really good job and caught me completely off-guard,” he said.

Healey said Holling had attempted to reach out through Facebook to Healey’s father, a retired state trooper, so that Healey’s family could sneak in for the ceremony. “I think that probably didn’t work because of my dad’s privacy settings,” Healey said.

But even though his family wasn’t there for the presentation, Healey said he wasted no time contacting them by phone to share the happy news, which still hasn’t sunk in. “I think I’m still stunned,” he said.

 

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