As fentanyl-related overdose deaths continue to rise through 2022, learning how to administer naloxone, the synthetic drug used to help revive someone who has overdosed on an opioid, should be just as common as to learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver or CPR, said Catherine Hazlett, program director or Fairfield CARES Community Coalition.
Fairfield CARES offers, in partnership with Fairfield AMR, free monthly community training sessions on Narcan (a brand name of Naloxone). Each participant, aged 18 and over, will receive a free Narcan kit once the 90-minute session is over. The next session is scheduled for August 18 at 6 p.m.
“The use of opioids, but fentanyl in particular, has gone crazy,” Hazlett said.
According to the coalition, between 2015 and 2022, nearly 8,000 Connecticutans lost their lives due to drug overdoses, the vast majority of which involved an opioid, such as fentanyl. Fairfield County has seen 1,219 of those deaths and there have been 46 in the city of Fairfield.
According to the state Department of Public Health, the percentage of fentanyl overdose deaths remains high in 2022. Of 515 overdose deaths so far in 2022, 85.4% were involved with fentanyl. Of 1,532 deaths in 2021, 85% were from fentanyl.
The Statewide Opioid Reporting Directive, a mechanism for reporting opioid overdoses through emergency medical services, says that of 357 calls to the Connecticut Poison Control Center in May, 21 were fatal drug overdoses. Naloxone (one or more doses) was administered in all but 47 of 336 non-fatal overdoses. Of the 21 deaths, there were 13 cases where no naloxone was administered.
Hazlett said attendees of Fairfield CARES naloxone training sessions will learn what an opioid is, the impacts of opioids on the brain, how to recognize an overdose, how to administer naloxone, where to get it, how to store it. safe and let people know it has a shelf life.
Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz has long urged Connecticut residents to learn about using Narcan as the opioid epidemic affects everyone.
“The drug works by pausing the opioid receptors in the brain and rapidly stopping the effects of opioids, allowing the overdosed person to breathe normally,” Bysiewicz said. “The more residents trained in how to provide Narcan and transport it regularly, the more lives we can save. Receiving this training will provide residents with the skills and knowledge necessary to save a life.
Mental health and safety officials say there is very little risk in administering Narcan in the event of a suspected overdose because the state’s Good Samaritan law protects such intervention and there is no known adverse effect for a person who received a dose.
Enfield Police Chief Alaric Fox said his community continued to see opioid overdose deaths, but there were also Narcan rescues – he estimates one person a month. Every officer at Enfield is trained in the administration of Narcan.
Fox points out that lives were also saved when family members administered Narcan. It is quite easy to give the drug, even if it is given when there is no overdose.
“I understand we’re not going to see any ill effects,” Fox said.
Enfield, Manchester and Vernon Police Services have policies in place to put a person in touch with resources if they request it. Enfield Police recently reminded the public of this policy via their Facebook page.
“This reminder, either to people with addictions or their family members, would only seem to help,” Fox said.
Ken Welch, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Wallingford, said he knew something had to be done when Wallingford experienced more than 50 overdose deaths from 2010 to 2013.
Most of those who died were under 30. Members of this coalition use a local approach to combat the opioid crisis by maintaining visibility in the city, organizing events such as its “What’s in The Bag” program, distributing brochures and putting up signs. display.
He said the Coalition for a Better Wallingford does Narcan training frequently. Although the training is now mostly delivered through a forum, Welch will explain what to do individually if someone needs information.
“We give out probably 20 to 30 doses of Narcan a year, and I meet everyone personally, pull out these instructions, and spend ten minutes with them,” Welch said. “If you wait until you need it, you won’t be able to think straight.”
In addition to being trained on the use of Narcan, Hazlett said Fairfield CARES is also beginning to conduct QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer) training to help people learn what they can do to help prevent the suicide.
“We have at least one or two slides in Narcan training that provide that connection,” Hazlett said. “What’s hard about identifying overdoses as intentional and unintentional, you just don’t know. Some of these overdoses are actually suicides. It’s just unless there’s a note left or other indications of other signs what we train people to look for in terms of suicide, then it’s really hard to identify.
Fairfield CARES is now focusing its QPR training on area churches, but Hazlett said she hopes to expand that training to college parents.
“We’re going to be doing more in the fall, helping parents understand that it’s really important to check in with your child regularly, to really sit down, look them in the eye and say, ‘really, how do you,” Hazlett said.
Fairfield CARES and the Coalition for a Better Wallingford were just a few organizations in the state that received $5,000 mini-grants through the Connecticut State Opioid Response Initiative.
Under this initiative, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services is funding the five Regional Behavioral Health Action Organizations (RBHAOs) to provide the mini-grants to community coalitions across the state. State for opioid awareness and prevention activities.
The grants were awarded to groups in rural, urban and suburban areas, and the programs receiving the money were given some leeway to meet the needs of their particular communities, according to Andrea Duarte, who oversees the grants.
Welch said another project funded under the mini-grant is able to send people to the offices of 60 prescribers in Wallingford to educate them about alternatives to opioids for pain control.
Welch said that ultimately the Coalition for a Better Wallingford wants to remind people of its presence and its mission.
“We care and we want to make the community better,” he said. “That’s why we are here.”