A lifesaving tool in the opioid epidemic is now in more community members’ hands.
H.O.P.E. (heroin/opioid prevention and education) in Fostoria hosted an event to spread awareness about Naloxone, or Narcan, a medication to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, as well distribute it. Attendees left “Narcan: What Is It?” on Wednesday evening with knowledge, training, and free-of-charge kits containing the life-preserving drug.
The aim of event, according to officials, was to help those who are affected by the epidemic through family or friends or those who have a high chance of experiencing a first-hand encounter with subjects who may overdose.
“It’s basically a program to inform the community about this medication and how they can administer it if they have a friend or family member or someone in the community who overdosed on opioids or heroin,” said Amy Preble, director of emergency services at ProMedica FCH, in an earlier interview with the Review Times.
Barbara Wilhelm and Krista Pruitt with Hancock County Board of Public Health shared their expertise on how Narcan blocks the effects of an overdose before providing a demonstration on how to properly administer the drug to a suspected victim.
The two are part of Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone), a community-based overdose education and naloxone distribution program that was created in Hancock County as a way to combat Ohio’s opioid overdose epidemic.
According to Wilhelm, Narcan is a temporary but effective way to help prevent loss of life due to opioid overdose, which causes the victim to stop breathing.
The medication will, for a period of 30-90 minutes, halt the effects of an overdose; however, emergency medical assistance is ultimately and immediately needed, said Wilhelm.
The training session stressed the importance of seeking professional medical attention because Narcan stays in the system for a much shorter period of time than heroin or opiates, meaning a victim is likely to overdose again after the medication wears off.
“The first thing you want to do is call 911 to get professional help,” Wilhelm said. “If you can’t revive them, go ahead and call right away then you want to do the rescue breathing.”
Responders were advised to give two mouth-to-mouth “rescue breaths” after calling for help in order to help restore oxygen levels in the blood then administer Narcan to the victim. Once the drug has been given, rescue breaths, or mouth-to-mouth CPR, should be repeated until safety force assistance has arrived.
Though bystanders may be reluctant to give a suspected overdosing victim Narcan in case that is not the medical emergency at hand, the drug has no harmful side effects.
“It is a very safe medication,” said Wilhelm. “It really one has one purpose, to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, so I wouldn’t worry, ‘oh, I’m giving them something they don’t need.’
“If they’re out, they’re not breathing and they have the symptoms of overdose then I would go ahead and give it to them.” Further, Lt. Fred Reinhart with Fostoria Fire Division, who frequently responds to scenes of opioid overdoses as a paramedic, urged the risk of doing nothing is greater than administering Narcan when it’s not needed.
“Inaction is the worst enemy,” he said. “Not doing anything at all is probably the worse thing that can happen. There’s no foul or harm or nothing if you give them Narcan — you’re not hurting them.”
Helpers should also be on the look out for potentially harmful needles, remaining drugs and residues on scene and avoid contact with such substances and paraphernalia, said Reinhart. These items could put the health of those assisting in jeopardy.
In addition, trainees were advised that there is a chance that users will awaken confused, disoriented and sometimes agitated. Caution should be used in case a person comes to and becomes upset in case they lash out physically.
Marcia Kunkelman, RN at ProMedica FCH, was also available during the panel afterward to answer questions regarding Narcan, heroin or opioids. She noted nasal formulas of Narcan, like those in the Project DAWN kits handed out, do not typically seem to agitate patients as much as intravenous methods of delivering naxolone.
Wilhelm and Pruitt brought 69 naloxone kits, provided through Hancock Public Health’s Project DAWN program, to be distributed to attendees after the training ended. While not all were passed out, many participants took a few kits to have on hand in case of an opioid overdose emergency in their families, friends or community.
For those interested in obtaining a free Narcan kit, call 419-424-7441 or visit www.odh.ohio.gov/health/vipp/drug/ProjectDAWN. The packs, which include two nasal dosages of naxolone, a CPR breathing barrier mask, informational DVD and instructional booklet, are free to anyone. Donations are appreciated.
Formed in mid-2017, H.O.P.E. in Fostoria is a grassroots organization focused on education and prevention. It originated with the Fostoria Kiwanis Club and the United Way of Fostoria as officials began seeing a need in the community to address the rising heroin epidemic.
The Kiwanis Club first hosted a discussion on the local affects of the problem in June 2016, but soon realized the topic was too big for one entity. After reaching out to the United Way, the first meeting for the new organization took place in April 2017.
The committee now includes 13 members representing a cross-section of Fostoria from businesses to manufacturing to law enforcement to medicine to the schools to religious institutions and more.
Members include Amy Preble, director of Emergency and Dialysis Services at ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital; Amie Hathaway, ReMax Realtor and Fostoria Kiwanis Club past president; Evelyn Marker, United Way of Fostoria executive director; Jennifer Abell, director of student services at Fostoria City Schools; Officer Brandon Bell with the Fostoria Police Department; Autumn Clouse, human resources for Mennel Milling; Andrea Cress, First Federal Bank branch manager; the Rev. Bernie Dickson with Fostoria Church of the Nazarene; Mircea Handru, executive director with Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties; Steve Lehmann, DC, private practice chiropractor; Julie Reinhart, marketing for Mennel Milling; Ed Schetter, state executive director at Abate of Ohio and fleet sales manager for Reineke Findlay Ford; and Jason Yoakam, president/CEO of JYoakam Communications.
As a group, H.O.P.E. is committed to at least one year of education to the community with events scheduled every other month from January to November 2018.
For more information on the upcoming events or on H.O.P.E. in Fostoria, visit the HOPE in Fostoria Facebook page or call 419-435-4836.