Pubdate: Sat, 26 Dec 2015
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2015 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Thomasi McDonald


DURHAM - Officials with a statewide non-profit dedicated to reducing 
drug overdose deaths say a law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 
has resulted in hundreds of lives saved from drug overdoses.

The N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition, a non-profit dedicated to reducing 
drug overdose deaths, says that since Aug. 1, 2013, naloxone has 
saved the lives of more than 1,500 people who were overdosing on 
heroin or other opioid drugs. The agency has partnered with about 40 
police departments across the state to train officers and provide the 
agencies with drug overdose prevention kits.

Carrboro's police department was the first in North Carolina to 
prevent a drug overdose death when an officer equipped with the 
antidote drug was arrives at a home in late January where a man in 
his early 30s had overdosed on heroin.

But the largest number of overdose reversals have been done by 
civilians, who are responsible for 1,518 lives saved.

"The overwhelming number of these drug overdose reversals were among 
community members," said Tessie Castillo, NCHRC's program and 
advocacy coordinator. "We had an additional 24 reversals with law 
enforcement officers."

The Harm Reduction Coalition received significant support in 2013 
when state lawmakers passed the Good Samaritan-Naloxone Access 
legislation that grants someone immunity from criminal prosecution 
for possessing less than a gram of heroin or cocaine if they were 
seeking assistance for a drug-related overdose. The new law also gave 
non-medical providers access to naloxone to help prevent overdose deaths.

The law allows naloxone to be distributed through a special 
prescription written for a group of people. "Anyone who works for our 
agency can distribute naloxone even though we are not doctors or 
nurses," Castillo said.

Since 2012, NCHRC staff members distributed more than 19,000 naloxone 
overdose prevention kits to people throughout the state at risk for 
drug overdose.

Across the state, largest number of overdose reversals was 409 in 
Asheville, followed by two of the Triad cities: Greensboro, 290, and 
High Point, 185, according to the NCHRC.

In the Triangle, Durham reported 35 overdose reversals, followed by: 
Raleigh, 13; Chapel Hill, three; Knightdale and Carrboro, two each; 
and Wake Forest, one.

Only three law enforcement agencies in the Triangle area have 
partnered with the NCHRC for the naloxone program   Carrboro and 
Hillsborough police departments and the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Jeff Hammerstein, communications chief with Wake County Emergency 
Medical Services, said naloxone has been used by his agency for 
decades and EMS is partnered with area fire departments to render 
help as quickly as possible. The NCHRC program, however, was "a great 
opportunity in rural areas where law enforcement officers are often 
the first on the scene," he said.

Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh police spokesman, said that department 
considered equipping its officers with naloxone in 2014, but decided 
against it.

"In essence...if the drugs are to be administered by a first 
responder, they are most appropriately injected by the trained hands 
of a paramedic or EMT," Sughrue said in an email to The News & 
Observer. "Those medically trained personnel typically arrive at 
Raleigh scenes very rapidly."

But Castillo insists equipping police officers with the life-saving 
medication just makes more sense.

"There are times when law enforcement is the first to arrive at a 
scene," she said, "and if you have an opportunity to save a life why 
not take it?"

Durham couple Michael Butler and Morgan Solis underwent the hour-long 
training session to learn how to administer the drug.

Solis said her husband has saved several people since the training, 
including one of her friends and a woman they did not know who was 
overdosing one day on a city park bench.

Someone who knew Butler had naloxone yelled, "Mike, she's OD'ing. 
She's OD'ing," Solis said.

Butler said the woman dropped to her knees and started turning blue. 
"I gave her a shot of naloxone, did CPR and gave her another shot," 
he said. "She woke up cold and confused, but once I explained that I 
had saved her life, she hugged me and said thank you."
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