NY emergency response group draws ire with Facebook post about naloxone

The Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit's post was criticized by both the public and town officials


Bob Beckstead
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

MASSENA, N.Y. — A posting on the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit’s Facebook page has drawn a wave of criticism from members of the community, as well as the Massena Town Board.

A photograph of a Narcan kit contains the caption, “Nothing says wake up from your opiate enduced slumber like the like the delightful smell of ‘pumpkin spice’ Narcan ; coming to a rescue squad near you.”

The Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit has come under fire from community members and town officials for a controversial Facebook post about naloxone. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
The Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit has come under fire from community members and town officials for a controversial Facebook post about naloxone. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The post was deleted, as was the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit’s Facebook page on Wednesday. But not before a screenshot began circulating social media and to the Massena Town Board, which issued a statement Wednesday afternoon blasting the post. Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said he was made aware of the post on Tuesday evening.

The statement was issued on town of Massena letterhead as a letter to the citizens of Massena and surrounding communities by board member Robert Elsner, who serves as a town liaison to the Massena Volunteer Unit.

“The members of the Massena Town Board have been made aware of yet another insensitive and inflammatory social media posting by a member(s) of the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit Inc., (MVEU). This time the post in question was not posted on the personal website of a member(s), but rather on a site maintained, operated, and controlled, by the MVEU. Equally concerning is that this publicly accessed website further identifies the MVEU as doing business as (dba) Massena Rescue Squad,” Mr. Elsner said.

“On behalf of all members of the Massena Town Board, we are appalled that such an ‘official’ looking website was used to post such inappropriate and upsetting content. Thankfully, the content has been removed — however, the damage has been done,” he said.

He said, speaking for the Massena Town Board, they wanted the community to know the “entity known as the Massena Rescue Squad is a municipally owned, operated, financed, and managed department. It is owned by the citizens of this community for the provision of critical life-saving emergency response and ambulance services.”

Mr. Elsner said the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit, Inc., is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation contracted by the town to provide qualified volunteer and non-volunteer personnel in support of the Massena Rescue Squad.

“The MVEU has no legal representation, claim, or status as the Massena Rescue Squad,” he said. “Moving forward, I will be addressing this matter with the leadership of the MVEU, as well as the Massena Rescue Squad Board of Managers, to develop policies and safeguards to prevent such inappropriate content in the future.”

Mike Abrunzo, president and chief executive officer of the Massena Volunteer Emergency Unit, Inc., issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“The comment was made thoughtlessly and in gest, was immediately rescinded, and the MVEU social media page has been shut down. No further comment at this time,” he said in an email.

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©2020 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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