New Haven to distribute free overdose reversal kits, hold training

This story was originally published in the New Haven Register. 

NEW HAVEN >> The city Health Department will hold Narcan training sessions and distribute free kits of the overdose reversal drug on Wednesday, joining similar events worldwide to raise awareness about the fatal opioid overdoses continuing to ravage communities.

International Overdose Awareness Day seeks to remind the public of the deadly cost of drug overdoses, which claimed the lives of 47,055 people in the United States in 2014. More specifically, opioid-involved drug overdose deaths in the U.S. have skyrocketed, tripling from 2000 to 2014, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

On Wednesday, the public is invited to attend a free Narcan training at the Ives Main New Haven Free Public Library branch on Elm Street. The event will include the distribution of at least 100 Narcan kits. Narcan, a brand name of the drug naloxone, reverses the effects of opioid overdose and can be administered by non-medical personnel. It’s been used to save lives across the country, including by Connecticut State Police, who have saved at least 100 people since they started carrying it in October 2014.

Health Programs Director Brooke Logan said Wednesday’s event will feature three city Health Department employees training people on how to use the medication. She outlined on Monday what those who attend the training “can expect to learn the signs of an overdose, how to prevent an overdose and how to act if someone has overdosed.”

Logan said she hopes individuals who use the city’s syringe exchange program and family members of individuals who use opioids such as painkillers or heroin attend the training. The Narcan kits are being provided at no cost through OPEN Access CT, which is organized by the state Department of Public Health.

“If individuals can’t make it, they’re welcome to give us a call and set up a training either one-on-one or as a group,” Logan said.

The kits will be intranasal sprays, similar to those carried by the New Haven Fire Department, which gets the kits from the Health Department, Logan said.

While Narcan is widely available, the stigma tying it to heroin use has left many reluctant to seek it. The state has passed several laws to help increase access and reduce liability for individuals administrating the medication.

Overall, the number of fatal opioid overdose in Connecticut has risen every year since at least 2012, with 1,275 fatal opioid overdoses between 2012 and 2015, according to figures from the state medical examiner. While the medical examiner said in May that these numbers are leveling off, the widespread use of opioids remains a concern for many communities.

New Haven felt the full measure of the opioid epidemic in June, after three people died and more than 10 others were hospitalized after a batch of fentanyl was sold to individuals who though they were buying cocaine. The rash of overdoses prompted the city to issue a public health emergency, leading to a citywide response that depleted its Narcan supply and spurred the state to send 700 doses of the medication.

The incident led local officials to consider having New Haven police carry Narcan, though the an idea has been met with pushback from the police union.

The event in New Haven will be one of four IOAD-registered events in Connecticut. Other events commemorating the day will be held in Manchester, Meriden and New Milford, according to the campaign’s website.

The event in New Haven runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at the library at 133 Elm St.

Reach Esteban L. Hernandez at 203-680-9901

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