'Too many are dying': Riverwest coffee shop owner hosts Narcan trainings to combat opioid epidemic

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Riverwest coffee shop now doubles as a resource in the fight against the local drug and opioid epidemic.

Since opening in January, the owner of The Daily Bird has been on a mission to help save lives. Every first Tuesday night of the month, you can learn how you could save someone's life.

"It saved a couple of my friends' lives. And, you know, unfortunately there's cases where it didn't," Milwaukee resident, Elliot Brown, said.

On Monday night, March 1 at The Daily Bird, Chelsea from MKE Overdose Prevention taught a group about Narcan and how to administer it.

Narcan, or Naloxone, is a medication used to reverse the effects of a known or suspected opioid overdose.

Drug overdose deaths are fast rising in Milwaukee County.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office says it's tracking a 42% increase since 2020, and a 23% increase from 2021. So far this year, they've confirmed 44 overdose deaths.

"We can't arrest our way out of this," said Dan Zwart, owner of The Daily Bird.

Zwart believes harm-reduction, not abstinence, is a more practical, compassionate approach to care.

"I want to try to get Narcan in everybody's pocket. Try to destigmatize drug use," he said.

Zwart lost his two brothers, Jason and Eric, to overdoses. He has been in recovery for four years now.

Zwart opened the coffee shop two years ago, and opened his current location on Center Street in December.

"Half the kids I grew up with are dead now. You know, too many people are dying. It's dangerous," he said.

Like others in the room on Tuesday, Sheila Johnson knows just how dangerous addiction can be. She says her 24-year-old grandson overdosed twice last year.

"I was hysterical. I was going crazy. I dialed 911," Johnson said.

Johnson says she used Narcan on him while waiting for paramedics.

"It doesn't matter where you're having this meeting at as long as the meeting gets done," she added.

This year, the medical examiner's office estimates 726 overdose deaths if current trends continue.

Last year, the death total was 604.

On Tuesday, March 8, The Daily Bird is hosting a harm-reduction panel at 6 p.m.

Their Narcan trainings are every first Tuesday of the month.

If you're interested in Narcan training at The Daily Bird, or any other harm-reduction sessions, you can click here

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