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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

How One Shelburne Volunteer Is Responding To Overdoses In Hotel Housing

A man in a blue Lowes hat in front of a tan motel
Erica Heilman
Shan McGlynn, who lives at the Quality Inn in Shelburne, has taken it upon himself to be on call to administer the overdose-reveral drug naloxone to those currently living in Chittenden and Washington County hotels.

Fatal opioid overdose deaths climbed to a record number in 2020. By the time the final numbers are tallied, the state will likely have registered more overdose deaths than COVID-19 deaths last year. Independent producer Erica Heilman recently spent time with one man who says he is trying to prevent overdoses from becoming fatal.

Shan McGlynn is a resident of the Quality Inn on Shelburne Road. We talked in the parking lot behind the hotel.

Shan: “On Oct. 15 I lost my fiancée to alcoholism. Two weeks before that, one of my good friends’ daughter, 25-year-old, sat dead in a hotel room.... from a drug overdose, which we later determined was fentanyl. Since those two events, I’ve took it upon myself to learn all the junkies around the area, and I have a network of people that give me a call if somebody drops or something, I go administer Narcan.”

More from Vermont Edition: How Vermonters Are Navigating Opioid Recovery Amid The Pandemic

Since COVID, Shan McGlynn has been living in one of several Vermont hotels that are now home to the homeless and to people who have lost housing because they lost their work. He says the drug problems are rampant.

Shan: “I became homeless and got stuck here back in March due to COVID stuff happening and shutting down sober houses and stuff, so I been in this situation. Became pretty acquainted with a lot of people around this area, see a lot of pain and stuff, of people losing people from drug addiction and alcoholism and stuff.

“I’ve noticed in the last couple months, a lot more families are coming into the motels with children. Couldn’t afford their bills no more, and couldn’t afford to pay their mortgage and stuff. Lost their place and are in hotels. I mean some of these people, you go from a two-three bedroom apartment to a little motel room, and you got two kids with you. Probably gets a little mind-racking.

“I think the stresses of that also leads to people relapsing and doing drugs. A friend of mine, I had to go take and administer Narcan to two weeks ago, said that’s why he relapsed. He was clean 14 years. He relapsed because of the stress of this living environment. Within a 24-hour period, I had to administer six Narcans.”

"Just seeing all the pain and hurt of people losing people. I just figure, if you can do one good deed a day, or one good deed a week, karma's gonna reward you." — Shan McGlynn, who administers Narcan to people who have overdosed in Vermont hotels

Me: “How did you find out about them? You got phone calls?”

Shan: “Yeah.”

Me: “How did you get there?”

Shan: “I either walk or I get a ride. I usually get a phone call. I got at least three, four people in every hotel within Chittenden County and Washington County that know who I am and they know the situation. They give me a call. I got somebody on point if I can’t be there quick enough that’ll take care of it. I’m not gonna say no names, but I have a friend of mine, that’s 85% blind, and I left him two Narcans, and he actually had to administer one last week. I know there’s bad sh-- going around.”

Me: “How do you do it?”

Shan: “First thing you do is check their pulse. If it’s really down real low and they’re starting to turn blue, you tip their head back, you get a little nostril spray — it’s a little pump spray — put it in and shh shh. It’s like the old adrenalin drug when they used to put it in your heart. It brings you back. It puts you into a rapid detox. Some people get pissed out of it, ‘cause they just lost their killer high they thought they had. They didn’t realize they were about two seconds from death.”

Me: “So administer and stand back.”

Shan: “Yeah. I think any public place where they have people living, I think they should have access to that. I don’t think it should be a 911 call when it’s as simple as somebody just reaching down and spraying in the nose and bringing back somebody to life. I think it should be plenty more accessible. I think we should be able to walk in the corner store and buy it if we need to. It seems like it’s hard to get when it’s needed.”

For a list of where to access overdose rescue kits with naloxone (e.g. Narcan) in Vermont, head here.

Me: “Who asked you to do this?”

Shan: “Took it upon myself. Just seeing all the pain and hurt of people losing people. I just figure, if you can do one good deed a day, or one good deed a week, karma’s gonna reward you.

“I mean, people call me a ‘soldier of the street’ for the acts that I do. It’s not a badge I like to wear. I’m not a soldier of nobody. I just want to make sure people are safe. That’s all.”

Recovery and treatment resources:

Call 2-1-1 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 1-800-662-4357 Vermont Crisis Text Line: Text “VT” to 741741 Valley Vista Addiction Treatment: (802) 222-5201, email Recovery House: Staff is available 24/7 to answer phone calls. Serenity House: (802) 446-2640 Grace House: (802) 775-3476 United Counseling Service: Phone (802) 445-3039 Vermont Recovery Network: Phone (802)738-8998 Green Mountain Area Narcotics Anonymous: Email, Phone (802) 265-6414 Champlain Valley Area Narcotics Anonymous: 24 hour helpline (802) 862-4516 or toll free (866) 580-8718 LUND Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment: Phone (802) 864-7467 Narcan distribution locations in Vermont

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Erica Heilman produces a podcast called Rumble Strip. Her shows have aired on NPR’s Day to Day, Hearing Voices, SOUNDPRINT, KCRW’s UnFictional, BBC Podcast Radio Hour, CBC Podcast Playlist and on public radio affiliates across the country. Rumble Strip airs monthly on Vermont Public. She lives in East Calais, Vermont.
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