Two park rangers responding to a medical emergency call find two people unconscious from a heroin overdose. Neither one of the men are breathing, nor have a pulse, and bluish in color around the lips. The quick-thinking rangers heroically come to their rescue, administering one dose of Narcan (naloxone) and providing chest compressions. Eventually, both men show signs of life. The rangers have saved the day! While this may sound like a scene in a movie, this is a real-life incident and took place on Saturday, August 7, 2021 at approximately 6:19 p.m. at Rockburn Branch Park located in Elkridge, MD. The real-life hero and heroine are Rangers Ian Smith and Tabitha Kanagie.

On Tuesday, September 14, 2021 Ranger Smith and Ranger Kanagie were honored for their heroics by Howard County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball. “In 2021, Narcan was administered in every case of a non-fatal overdose,” said Dr. Ball. “During the pandemic, our Health Department has continued to work with community partners and government departments to train more people in overdose response, including how to administer Narcan in an emergency. These efforts have resulted in real results and lives saved. This situation could have ended much differently if these two rangers had not been trained in our Overdose Response Program and how to administer Narcan. Thank you to our Rangers for their quick action, and to the many others who arrived on the scene to help save lives that day.”

Howard County Fire and Rescue arrived at approximately 6:32 p.m. and took over life-saving procedures. They delivered more doses of naloxone to the patients and transported both patients to Howard County General Hospital. In honoring the rangers, Dr. Ball also provided a comprehensive opioid update, highlighting continued efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Howard County by ensuring access to care and harm reduction initiatives. County Executive Ball noted the measurable progress in Howard County’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis prior to the pandemic, with a continued decrease in both non-fatal and fatal overdoses from 2017 to 2019. Additionally, nonfatal overdoses fell from a high of 132 in 2018 to 99 in 2020— a 25 percent decrease.

Dr. Ball noted the COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to those facing substance misuse. In 2020, Howard County saw a 43 percent increase in opioid related deaths compared to 2019, part of a national and statewide trend as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated opioid and substance misuse. The state saw its highest opioid fatality number to date in 2020, at over 2,500 deaths statewide. While fatalities at the State level continue to rise, Howard County has seen a drop in fatal overdoses from last year, down over 70 percent, from 47 to nine.

“For today’s event, I’m very pleased that we were able to not only convey to the public, the dire situation, but remind them that there is hope, that there are heroes, that each and every one of us can be a hero, and with the right training, and we can save lives,” said Dr. Ball, who honored the rangers in the pavilion where the incident took place. “As a Howard County resident and a member of the Elkridge community, I would like to express how grateful I am for the positive outcome of this incident,” Park Ranger Smith. “I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to my community and grateful to everyone here for their support.”

In being honored, Park Ranger Kanagie said, “We could not have accomplished what we did without the quick and skillful response of Howard County’s Police and Fire and Rescue and the Naloxone provided by the Howard County Health Department. I’d also like to thank County Executive Ball and the Recreation and Parks Director Delerme, for their continued support of the Park Ranger Program.”

Delerme applauded the rangers’ efforts. “Tabitha and Ian are true life savers,” said Delerme. “Their extensive training from the Department prepared them to react quickly in a stressful situation where seconds made the difference between life and death.” Fire Chief Louis Winston also praised the work of Park Rangers Smith and  Kanagie. “Our Park Rangers’ quick response, recognition, and delivery of Narcan prior to EMS arrival certainly saved lives that day,” Chief Winston. “Their actions demonstrate how the community can be the first link in the chain of survival during an overdose crisis.”