CHESTERTOWN — Kent County so far this year has seen nine suspected fatal drug overdose deaths, and the local health department is working hard at getting the life-saving medication Narcan out into the community to stem the tide.
Data from the state department of health showed six fatal overdoses in Kent County in 2020, which means that this year has already eclipsed those totals. With unprecedented overdose deaths across the country last year — 11 people died each hour of each day in 2020 — Narcan has perhaps become more important than ever.
Commonly sold under the brand name Narcan, Naloxone is a life-saving medication that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. Naloxone has no potential for abuse or getting high, has few side effects, is safe for children and pregnant women and won’t affect someone who hasn’t taken opioids.
As opiates can cause respiratory depression, and most overdoses occur in a home setting, this medication can save lives.
According to the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, there were 2,354 total Naloxone administrations by EMS personnel in Maryland in the first calendar quarter of 2021, a 4.6% increase from the same time frame in 2020, when there were 2,250 such cases.
Brenna Fox, Local Addictions Authority director for Kent County Behavioral Health, leads a dedicated team at the agency’s Recovery in Motion and Wellness Center. The center is a peer-run community agency that offers a variety of support services for people in recovery from substance abuse disorder. This year alone, Fox and her team of peers distributed 1,486 Narcan doses across the community.
“The heroin/fentanyl epidemic has dramatically impacted Kent County,” Fox said. “Year-to-date, there have been nine suspected overdose fatalities, in comparison to six last year. Our numbers are increasing and therefore Kent County Health Department is one of twelve states establishing and implementing an Overdose Fatality Review Board (OFR).”
These boards are established as multi-disciplinary teams that review overdose cases and try to determine factors that lead to the deaths. The premise that overdose deaths are preventable guide the review process. Nine states, including Maryland, in 2018 authorized the use of such boards. Since then three more states have done the same.
Fox hopes to have this review board operational next month, and is still finalizing the team.
In the meantime, Fox and the peer support specialists with Recovery in Motion continue with outreach and Narcan trainings throughout the year. Trainings are free and readily available both in-person and virtually. Contact Peer Supervisor Melanie Jones-Dalziel 410-778-5895.
There are three FDA-approved ways to administer Narcan — injection, auto-injection or nasal spray. Typically, paramedics and other first responders use injectable Naloxone, while the public usually receives Narcan nasal spray, which is very easy to use.
Sometimes a person may vomit, feel ill or experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are not generally life-threatening. They also may grow extremely agitated, angry or upset. On rare occasions, a person may have a seizure, although that is uncommon.
Once administered, Naloxone will wear off anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes, so it is extremely important to also call 911 to get the individual checked out by professionals to determine if there has been additional damage or complications caused by the overdose.
Narcan is available in Maryland without a prescription and most local health departments offer free trainings — and free doses.
Kent Goes Purple encourages the community to learn about — and get trained on — the opioid overdose reversal medication, Narcan, as part of its substance use prevention initiative now in its fourth straight year.
Learning about this life-saving drug helps anyone stand up against substance abuse by potentially preventing one more overdose death. Narcan is not treatment, but it does provide a good opportunity to discuss detox and getting help. Many people who struggle with opioid use disorder are revived and do recover.
Kent Goes Purple is a substance abuse awareness and prevention initiative from Kent County Sheriff’s Office and Chestertown Rotary Club, that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. Kent Goes Purple focuses on preventing substance use in our youth, for which there are many different proven, evidence-based strategies.