Pubdate: Sun, 13 Apr 2014
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2014 Rutland Herald
Author: Brent Curtis, Staff Writer


A drug designed to save the lives of opiate users who overdose will
soon be available to a broader population of users and the general
public in Rutland.

Naloxone, an opioid antagonist medication that revives people who
overdose on drugs such as heroin or prescription painkillers, has been
available to addicts since November at needle exchange sites in
Burlington and White River Junction.

But in a pilot program designed to increase the drug's availability,
state Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said the West Ridge Center
for Addiction Recovery in Rutland would be the first of the state's
seven treatment hubs to dispense the lifesaving drug to a broader
number of addicts, their family members and anyone else who may need

"Realistically, we're looking at getting it out to the at-risk
population or their caretakers," Chen said. "Everyone having it in
their medicine cabinet would be overkill."

The Naloxone kits dispensed to smaller numbers of addicts in
Burlington and White River Junction have already proven their
effectiveness by being held responsible for "waking up" at least 10
people who overdosed using opiate drugs.

Those numbers don't count the overdoses counteracted through the use
of the drug by emergency medical technicians and Vermont State Police
troopers who have been issued the drug.

State police went through training on how to administer doses of
Naloxone before they were issued kits, but Chen said the training is

A brochure published on the Vermont Department of Health's website
lays out a simple procedure:

First dial 911, and make sure the victim's airways are clear. Then
attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and finally administer a dose of

The drug comes in a syringe but is administered nasally. Users are
recommended to use half a syringe in each nostril.

Additional doses should be administered every five minutes with
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation attempted in between does until the
person is breathing.

"The only risk to using it is if a person doesn't realize it's not
working," Chen said. "If they use it on any other kind of overdose
(other than opiate drugs) it's not going to work."

Asked why Rutland was chosen to be the first treatment hub in the
state to dispense Naloxone, Chen said the decision was made on the
basis of avoiding duplication and of need.

The state's hubs are located in Rutland, Brattleboro, White River
Junction, Berlin, St. Johnsbury, Newport and Burlington.

Addicts in Burlington and White River Junction already have access to
the drug. Of the other regions, Rutland has the higher level of opiate
users and therefore the greater risk, the commissioner said.

"Geographically, we wanted to find a place where there's a need," he

How many more Naloxone kits will be dispensed in Rutland than have
already been given out at the needle exchange programs is unclear.

In White River Junction, the Health Department said, 50 kits have been
given to addicts since November. The numbers dispensed by the Howard
Center in Burlington weren't immediately available Friday.

Jesse Farnsworth, director of the West Ridge Center in Rutland, said
plans for dispensing Naloxone in Rutland are still a work in progress
and she did not provide estimates.

However, a spokeswoman at Rutland Regional Medical Center, which runs
the West Ridge Center, said the treatment center should begin
dispensing Naloxone next month.

For the foreseeable future, Naloxone will be handed out free to those
who need it. That means the financial burden for the kits - which cost
about $15 each - will fall to the state, which in the short term is
using federal grant funding to pay the expense.

In the future, Chen said the state plans to set up a system in which
doctors would right prescriptions for Naloxone and the costs would be
covered by individuals' health insurance.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D