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Man who trained people to use life-saving anti-overdose drug loses his own battle with addiction

From Kevin Donovan/Facebook

A recovering drug addict who trained thousands of people to save overdose victims died Saturday after “he lost his battle with addiction,” his obituary said. He was 40 years old.

Kevin Donovan trained people to use Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose. After going through recovery for his own addiction issues, he wanted to teach people to use the drug, according to Wil Murtaugh, Executive Director for ACR Health in Syracuse, New York, where Donovan worked.

Murtaugh said in his two years as a full-time employee, Donovan was “a warrior in Narcan training.” He helped cover nine counties in central New York. Murtaugh said Donovan’s work saved thousands of lives, and took him on the road a lot.

“That’s the sad part, people are very shocked by this,” Murtaugh said. “He would always tell people, ‘never use alone, because people die alone’ and if he was truly hiding this, he wouldn’t have told anyone.”

Donovan’s doctor, Laura Martin, said he spent over five years with her as a patient, and that he had been drug free for about two years. During that time, she said he got his job at ACR, and he was a single parent to a young son.

“He’d changed his life so much, a single dad, good member of the community and hard working,” she said.

Martin described Donovan as a good person, who would work overtime if someone needed help. She said she had not seen him in the past two and a half weeks, and that no one seemed to know the whole story of how he died.

“He singlehandedly helped so many people in this area, and now people are going to look at him and say, ‘If he can’t do it, how can I?’ and that’s going to be the backlash we are going to have to deal with,” Martin said.

Donovan was also the founder and director of Healing Hearts Collaborative, an opioid overdose prevention program. In hopes of spreading awareness, Donovan was training people on how to use Narcan, hoping they would go back to their area and increase the network of people who were trained with the life-saving drug.

His obituary in says he openly shared his struggles with addiction to remove the stigma of the disease and to educate others about treatment options.

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