More than a million people annually visit the New River Gorge but unfortunately some of those people are not always visiting for the right reasons. Park ranger and park emergency medical coordinator Kathy Zerkle told us, “There’s an opioid crisis in the state of West Virginia and actually Ohio, the Appalachians and across the country. We have seen an uptick in overdoses in the last ten years in our park. So we are trying to be preemptive and get ahead of it.”
According to West Virginia University there have been five overdoses at the park in the last decade, none of them being fatal. But, now park ranger Zerkel says all rangers will be prepared more than ever. Zerkel told us, “Will have these naloxone kits and our rangers can administer them. So, if they should come upon someone in the campground, fishing along the river bank or anywhere within the park, they can do something if this person is overdosing. The park ranger is able to lend them assistance without waiting for EMS to come into place.” She also added, “It’s important because people like to come to the park and because this is a pervasive epidemic we’re going to see it here in the park. I want our Rangers to be prepared to face this when it happens and maybe we can make a difference in someone’s life.”
Seventeen park rangers will now be caring a kit that will each contain two doses. With this kit, rangers will now be able to assist anyone in this situation and most importantly keep other visitors safe in the park.