A local school administrator who knows students who have used heroin.
People who have had a family member overdose in their home.
First responders who want to ensure they know how to help someone who has overdosed.
These were among the more than 60 people who showed up to Harmony Park in Seymour on Monday night as Overdose Lifeline Inc. representatives educated the public on naloxone, demonstrated how to use the opioid overdose reversal drug and distributed kits for people to take home.
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Shawn Malone, owner of The Brooklyn Pizza Co. and Harmony Park, and fellow Seymour resident Jackie McClintock came together to bring the nonprofit organization to Seymour following a rash of 17 heroin overdoses in Jackson and Jennings counties Aug. 23 and 24.
Four of those overdoses occurred in Jackson County, and one in Jennings County resulted in the death of a 52-year-old North Vernon woman.
“We just wanted to have the door wide open for whoever did want to be here,” Malone said of Monday’s event. “We knew that we were going to see all walks of life here today, and that’s what we hoped for. We have a lot of concerned citizens. I think people got some questions answered today. I know I did.”
Kourtnaye Sturgeon, education program director with Overdose Lifeline Inc., first talked about the programs the nonprofit organization offers. She then defined opioids and naloxone before using an orange to demonstrate how to administer a dose of intramuscular naloxone.
At the end of the program, people interested in taking a naloxone kit home went to one of four tables set up to practice administering the medication.
“I feel a little bit better if I would have to use this product,” Malone said. “I think we all will probably know someone in the next year that this is going to affect. It has taken over so rapidly and so quickly.
“I hope it doesn’t grab hold of our youth,” he said. “You hope it doesn’t grab hold of anybody, but at least as adults, we can make decisions for ourselves. I’m worried about the kids, and I’m worried about the children of our community. I hope that by shedding more light on it that we learn how to combat it. That’s really what the end goal is, is to eradicate this drug.”
Sturgeon said Overdose Lifeline Inc. conducts educational programs for schools, first responders and the public.
Funding for the distribution of naloxone comes from donations to the organization or the Indiana attorney general’s grant that came out of a legal result with a pharmaceutical company.
Naloxone can be administered as a nasal mist or an intramuscular injection to a person suspected of overdosing on opioids, including heroin and prescription pain pills like OxyContin, Percocet, methadone and Vicodin. Naloxone blocks the effects of opioids and reverses the effects of an overdose.
“Indiana as a state is ranked 15th in the nation for overdose death rates, and we are one of five states last year that actually had an increase of overdose deaths from the prior year, so we’re actually going in the wrong direction,” Sturgeon said.
Naloxone is safe to use because there’s no harm to the person administering it to help revive someone who has overdosed on opioids, Sturgeon said.
“That’s one of the reasons why across the nation, so many states and cities and counties are putting this into our hands because it’s a low risk to people,” she said. “If you are having an opioid overdose, it’s going to reverse that. If you aren’t having an overdose, it’s not going to harm you.”
Once a person has assessed someone has overdosed on an opioid, Sturgeon said they should call 911 and then administer naloxone.
“The reason for that is you’re lucky enough to have some naloxone, but that individual may actually need more doses than the dosage that you have of naloxone,” Sturgeon said. “You want to make sure you have medical professionals coming to your aid.”
A vial of naloxone should be held upside down to insert 1cc into the syringe. The syringe is then placed at a straight 90-degree angle into a person’s thigh or shoulder.
“It can go through pants and clothes. You don’t have to worry about bare skin,” Sturgeon said.
Within a couple of minutes, the overdose victim should start breathing, she said. The person’s breathing may be very slow, there could be gurgling sounds and their lips and fingertips might be purple in color.
“What happens in an opioid overdose is the opiate is slowing down and stopping the respiration, so the signs and symptoms that you’ll see from someone is the slowdown of that respiration and breathing pattern as well as oxygen getting to the extremities,” she said.
The individual should be placed on their side in the recovery position in the event that they vomit.
If there is no change after two to three minutes, another 1cc of naloxone can be administered.
For those who didn’t receive a kit Monday, naloxone can be purchased at local pharmacies for $30 to $40 per dose. A prescription is not needed.
Logan Miser of Medora, a firefighter with the Carr Township Volunteer Fire Department, was among those attending Monday’s training and distribution event.
He said he attended because of the rise in the number of overdoses.
“I just wanted to come out, that way I knew how to use it in case something happened in our township,” he said. “Then I can take what I learned here and help train the rest of the members of our department about using (naloxone) and what we can do with it in case we’re in a situation where we need it.”
Miser said he hopes he never has to use naloxone, but it’s good to have it just in case.
“It’s going to save somebody’s life,” he said. “If we do have it and we realize (an overdose is) what has happened, we can distribute it and give them the care that they need.”
Brad and Brenda Ahlbrand of Brownstown also attended the event. They have family members who have battled with drug usage, so they wanted to get a naloxone kit in case an overdose occurs.
“It’s definitely a good thing to have, but also, we probably need a lot more of the users understanding that this is not ‘Hey, I can keep doing it’ safety net,'” Brad Ahlbrand said. “I think if you’ve saved somebody’s life with this, it ought to be mandatory that (the person who overdosed is) going somewhere after that, not ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to do it again so you can save my life again.'”
Brenda Ahlbrand said she would like to see counseling provided for someone after they have been revived with naloxone.
“The problem is not saving someone. The problem is the drug abuse that’s going on, the addiction,” she said. “There’s so much of it going on everywhere.”
Brad Ahlbrand said treatment needs to be more accessible.
“There are so many red tape hoops and things to jump through,” he said. “If insurance isn’t involved, they usually don’t want you, and what you get when you go somewhere where you don’t have insurance is inferior quality. It’s that battle.”
Malone said he hopes people who attended Monday’s event feel more knowledgeable about naloxone.
“People have been on me all week long, saying, ‘Well, do you think it’s your decision to let people live or die?'” he said. “No, I don’t, but this product was made to help people, and we can’t help someone once they are gone, we can’t get somebody rehab if they are dead, and so if this product gives us a chance to help save a life, then I think we all need to do that. My grandmother always said, ‘Err on the side of life.'”
The Indiana State Department of Health has awarded nearly $150,000 worth of overdose reversal kits to local health departments in 20 Indiana counties, including Jackson, to help prevent fatal opioid overdoses.
More than 3,400 kits containing naloxone hydrochloride, also known by the trade name NARCAN, will be distributed among the 20 counties. Naloxone hydrochloride is a medication that is proven to be a safe and effective way to quickly reverse the life-threatening effects of opioid overdose.
“We have seen the toll that the national opioid epidemic has taken on individuals, their families and their communities,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams. “These rescue kits will give local health departments the tools they need to protect lives in their communities and will give individuals struggling with substance use disorder the second chance they need to get on a path to recovery.”
In 2010, Indiana saw 54 deaths caused by heroin overdose. In 2014, there were 170 heroin-related deaths, 452 opioid deaths and 2,822 non-fatal drug poisoning-related emergency department visits due to opioid overdoses. Other opioids, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and other prescription painkillers, add to this number.
The goal of the award is to expand the distribution of naloxone kit programs across Indiana and to increase education about the state law that provides immunity for lay responders to carry and administer the lifesaving medication.
Counties were selected based on criteria outlined in a request for proposals.
In addition to providing naloxone kits, the state health department offers a website where people can locate naloxone kits and entities, such as pharmacies, hospitals, nonprofits and local health departments, can register as naloxone providers. To find a naloxone dispenser near you or to register as a dispenser, visit optin.in.gov.
For information on treatment for substance use disorder, visit the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction website at in.gov/fssa/dmha.
For health and safety information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at statehealth.in.gov or follow it on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and Facebook at facebook.com/isdh1.
For information about the Jackson County Health Department’s community outreach events, educational materials or testing, call 812-522-6474.
For information about Overdose Lifeline Inc., visit overdose-lifeline.org.