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Opiate overdose reversal drug program to be available to community members

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Are you a mother, brother, best friend or neighbor who is worried a loved one could overdose on heroin or OxyContin?

You could save his or her life by administering one or two doses of the overdose reversal drug naloxone hydrochloride, commonly known as Narcan, which is part of an opiate overdose prevention rescue kit that will be provided free of charge by ACR Health.

“The main message is this is a public health initiative meant to save lives,” ACR Health Prevention Director Erin Bortel said Friday during an agency news conference at its Washington Street office.

That is why 45-minute training workshops will be offered to anyone in the nonprofit agency’s nine-county coverage area, which includes Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence. ACR Health is working with the program’s clinical director, an Onondaga County physician, to train ACR Health staff, who then can educate others on when and how to use the kits.

Many medical professionals already use Narcan to prevent overdoses from becoming fatal, but this program would open the use of Narcan to addicts themselves, their caretakers and other community members.

Ms. Bortel said Narcan will work to reverse an overdose of opiate drugs, such as heroin, morphine, codeine, OxyContin, Dilaudid and methadone. People may overdose from a variety of methods, including both intravenous drug use and an extended pain pill regimen.

Narcan blocks the receptors in the brain that respond to opioid-based narcotics , reversing the respiratory depression that can result in death. If Narcan is administered when it actually wasn’t needed, it will just metabolize in the body.

“It doesn’t have any drug abuse potential,” Ms. Bortel said.

She said she expects ACR Health to be able to offer the training to north country residents within four to six weeks. Once someone receives the training, which is good for two years, he or she will receive a kit. After the kit has been used, ACR Health will send a report to the state Department of Health.

There is no limit on how many rescue kits people can receive during their certification. All kits come to ACR Health from the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Kits are valued at $15 each, and include two new packaged needles, two doses of Narcan, alcohol wipes, a cardiopulmonary resuscitation face shield and gloves.

“This can be a lifesaver,” said Anita K. Seefried-Brown, director of community prevention at the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Council of Jefferson County.

ACR Health Executive Director Michael E. Crinnin said the agency took on this program because it already has established programs to assist people who abuse substances. Opiate addiction isn’t just a north country problem, he said, as it’s happening throughout the nation. “It’s catching everyone off guard,” he said. “It just seems like it’s the best-kept secret, and it’s disastrous to so many folks.”

In Jefferson County alone, there were 16 overdoses resulting in death in 2012, and 14 in 2013, according to the Jefferson County medical examiner’s office. Stephen A. Jennings, Jefferson County Public Health Service spokesman, said from a public health standpoint, the concern is that people addicted to prescription opiates potentially will turn to heroin. Because of that, Jefferson County Public Health is focused on prevention efforts, he said.

Mr. Crinnin said he hopes this also sparks families’ interest in having conversations with their children about drugs and how they can affect lives.

In the overdose prevention effort’s first year, Ms. Bortel said, she would like to have about 200 people trained in the agency’s nine-county coverage area.

Meanwhile, ACR Health also offers recovery readiness programs free of charge, including referrals to drug and alcohol treatment, case management, HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infection educational information, harm reduction supplies, HIV counseling and testing and other referrals.

For more information, call 475-2430, or visit http://wdt.me/JHbZSV.

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