NC Harm Reduction Coalition Reverses 5000th Drug Overdose Through Community Naloxone Distribution in North Carolina

By / Health and Wellness / Monday, 26 December 2016 05:00

On 11/23/2016, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC), a statewide nonprofit dedicated to reducing drug overdose deaths, received a report of its 5000th drug overdose reversal using the opioid antagonist, naloxone, in community settings. As of November 23, 2016, the total number of reversals stands at 5,014.  
Since August 1, 2013, NCHRC has distributed over 35,800 overdose prevention kits containing naloxone, a medicine that reverses opioid drug overdose, and administration supplies to people at risk for drug overdose and their loved ones.
Naloxone is a safe, effective medication that temporarily blocks the effects of opioids in the brain long enough to restore breathing in a person experiencing respiratory failure from an opioid overdose.
“There are 5000 people potentially alive today because of this program,” says Donnie Varnell, Special Investigator with the Dare County Sheriff’s Office. “NCHRC had built partnerships with law enforcement, politicians and community to make this program work statewide. A couple of years ago no one knew what naloxone was and now it is the accepted way of doing business.”  Louise Vincent, a naloxone distributor in Greensboro who lost her daughter last spring to an overdose, says, “My daughter could be alive today if she had naloxone. I do this work because people need to realize how valuable people who use drugs are and how much their deaths are a terrible loss. People who use drugs are the artists, musicians, and creative muses of the world. We have so much to offer.” Conner Adams, a naloxone distributor in Asheville, was saved with naloxone multiple times before she stopped using drugs.
 “I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had multiple chances,” she says. “In the end, I think what helped me was seeing compassion towards [drug users] and not the shaming that I heard most of the time. Naloxone offers compassion and a second chance, which is what [drug users] need to have hope in themselves and in recovery.”
 The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition began offering naloxone along with overdose prevention training to community members after the passage of the 911 Good Samaritan law in North Carolina. The 911 Good Samaritan law encourages people to seek medical help for an overdose by offering limited immunity for some drug, alcohol, and probation/parole violation offenses. It also grants civil and criminal immunity to anyone who administers naloxone in good faith and allows community-based organizations to distribute naloxone through a special prescription (a standing order) from a medical provider.
 Many people whose overdoses are reversed with naloxone end up seeking recovery from drug addiction, often through the same people who showed them compassion by giving them naloxone.
 “I am so proud of our entire NCHRC team for working so hard to save lives and help people,” says Kendra, a volunteer distributor in Wilmington. “I am thankful that we have been able to reach so many people, especially in this last year.”
 Law enforcement departments across the state are equipping their officers and deputies with naloxone and training them on how to respond to opioid overdose. Since January 2015 North Carolina law enforcement in 136 departments have reversed 256 overdoses with naloxone. The law enforcement reversals are not included in the list of 5000 community reversals.
Our community has lost far too many lives due to overdoses,” says Sheriff John Ingram of Brunswick County, whose department began carrying naloxone in December 2015 and has used it 11 times. “As law-enforcement officers we are sworn to protect life and property. Every life has value and losing someone to an overdose is a very difficult.  That is why when the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition gave us the opportunity to equip our officers with naloxone, we jumped on it. I am grateful to the NCHRC for helping us equip our officers with naloxone and save lives.”
 “I am very excited to learn of the 5000th naloxone save,” says Chief Bill Hollingsed of the Waynesville Police Department. Waynesville was one of the first law enforcement departments in North Carolina to adopt this program. “The use of naloxone has given law enforcement and first responders another tool or resource to help save lives. Behind each number or statistic is a life that was saved due to the use of naloxone.”
 
The North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is hoping that in light of the continuing crisis of opioid overdose deaths across the state, that the NC General Assembly will consider helping to fund the naloxone program. They will be requesting $120,000 during the next legislative session.
 
“North Carolina runs one of the largest naloxone distribution programs in the country on one of the smallest budgets,” says Robert Childs, Executive Director of the NC Harm Reduction Coalition. “I can’t say enough about how the commitment of people impacted by drug overdose has contributed to the success of this life-saving program, but we are still struggling to fund it due to overwhelming demand.”
 
For more information on overdose prevention training or how to receive a naloxone kit, visit http://www.nchrc.org/program-and-services/overdose-prevention-project/
 
To see a full breakdown of drug overdose reversal locations, go to:
http://www.nchrc.org/programs-and-services/nc-od-reversals/
 
For information on law enforcement departments that carry naloxone, visit:
http://www.nchrc.org/law-enforcement/us-law-enforcement-who-carry-naloxone/

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