The Blount County Community Health Initiative’s Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT), in partnership with Blount Memorial Hospital and Blount Discount Pharmacy, is helping several local agencies acquire a much-needed anti-overdose medication.
Naloxone (or Narcan®) is an opioid antagonist that can be used to partially or completely reverse an overdose from such opioids as hydrocodone, oxycodone and heroin. Naloxone can either be injected into a muscle or sprayed into the nose of a person experiencing an overdose, and can save his or her life within minutes.
SAPAT will be spreading a total of 125 intranasal naloxone kits across various local agencies, including Alcoa and Maryville Police Departments; Alcoa and Maryville Fire Departments; Blount County Sheriff’s Office; Alcoa and Maryville City Schools; and Blount County Schools. Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Alcoa Police Department and Maryville Fire Department have had supplies of naloxone before, but this will be the first time other organizations are receiving this potentially lifesaving medication.
Each agency will complete training courses detailing how to administer naloxone, and will receive certification through the Tennessee Department of Health. Many agencies also will be doing hands-on training with local experts and medical professionals.
"Putting Naloxone or Narcan® out into our community will save lives in Blount County, no question about it,” said Blount Memorial stroke medical director Dr. Deaver Shattuck. “Our fantastic first responders and law enforcement folks will do a great job, and will be able to administer this drug quickly when it's needed. We've had an explosion of narcotic overdose deaths in the last decade. These victims die because the overdose stops their breathing and damages their brains. Giving this drug early, even before patients arrive in the emergency department, will save brain cells and lives,” he added.
In 2014, Blount County had 21 confirmed overdose deaths, contributing to a total of 1,263 statewide – more than the total number of motor vehicle accident-related deaths in 2014 in the state. That same year, Tennessee became the eighteenth state in the nation to pass a Good Samaritan civil immunity law, which grants immunity from civil suit to providers who prescribe naloxone to a patient, family member, friend or other person in a position to assist giving the medication to someone whom he or she reasonably believes is overdosing on an opioid. The law also grants civil immunity to those administering the medicine to someone they believe is overdosing on an opioid.
"Recognizing the value of Naloxone, Maryville Police Department has been looking into arming our officers with this life-saving drug,” Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp said. “Teaming up with SAPAT was perfect timing and a perfect fit for this project, highlighting the importance of community partnerships and collaboration in the fight against opioid abuse." Crisp added.
“This program is just another example of our civic, emergency, law enforcement and medical communities coming together to confront a serious crisis in Blount County,” Shattuck said.
SAPAT purchased these 125 naloxone kits at a discounted rate from Blount Discount Pharmacy. Blount Memorial Foundation's Community Outreach Coordinator Jessica Belitz noted that Blount County Sheriff's deputies already have used Naloxone to save one person’s life late last year, and SAPAT is excited to be able to put Naloxone in the hands of more law enforcement officers and firefighters. Belitz said they also were grateful to have local middle and high schools on board.
"Opioid overdoses are often the result of drug abuse and addiction, but can also be the result of misuse of a prescription medication,” Belitz said. “Having this drug in the hands of trained school resource officers and school nurses gives them an extra tool to protect our kids. It also allows them to respond and give aid to visitors at school events,” she explained.