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Friday, April 14, 2017

Communities Must Be Prepared to Respond to Opioid Abuse, Overdoses

52 Weeks of Public Health Campaign Spotlight: Kentucky Harm Reduction

Four people overdosed on S. Fort Thomas Avenue in March. All were revived with Narcan. FTM file. 
As part of the 52 Weeks of Public Health campaign, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), is emphasizing the importance of naloxone education and services for communities to  address the impact of opioid abuse.

Public health officials say the program is particularly timely following a recent report of a death in Louisville linked to the highly potent painkiller carfentanyl,  which is a large animal tranquillizer never intended for human use. It can be hidden in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

RELATED: Four Overdose On Busy Fort Thomas Street 

“This is a very serious public health issue tied to a number of overdoses, hospitalizations and deaths across the country,” said Dr. Hiram Polk, Jr., Kentucky’s Public Health Commissioner. “Heroin, particularly contaminated heroin mixed with carfentanyl, fentanyl and other toxic substances, is highly toxic and can lead to respiratory failure and death.  As healthcare professionals and community leaders, we must be aware of the threat and take steps to address it.”

Polk urged hospitals to stock up on naloxone (commonly referred to as Narcan), the “antidote” to heroin and other drug overdoses. He also stressed the effectiveness of the DPH harm reduction strategy, which employs a mobile pharmacy unit and on-site testing for Hepatitis C and HIV, in helping communities prepare to respond to opioid abuse and its related health issues.

Recently, The River City News reported that the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Chief noted that his department was facing financial strains because of the increased use of Narcan in those two cities.

"It has really taken a hit to our budget. We are borrowing Narcan from Covington and Newport," Michael Auteri told RCN.

The DPH mobile unit is staffed with pharmacists who visit various locations at the request of local health departments to provide communities with naloxone training.   Following the training, free naloxone is given by request to members of the community. Testing for HIV and Hepatitis C are also provided.

“It can take as much as three times the amount of naloxone to reverse an overdose with these mixed drugs as it would normally,” Dr. Polk said. “Communities must be educated about the risks associated with these dangerous drugs.”

DPH also encouraged hospitals to offer resources such consultations with social workers and behavioral health staff and referrals to substance use disorder treatment. Friends and loved ones of those at risk can obtain additional information about naloxone at Kentucky Stop Overdoses , which also has a registry of pharmacies where the drug is available.

The mobile harm reduction program, sponsored by DPH and the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, provides education and a free supply of naloxone to individuals who visit the mobile pharmacy when it’s in a community. Stops in Garrard and Nelson counties are planned for April.

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