NEWTON, Mass. - First responders aren't the only ones carrying Narcan in one local city.
A new program just started up in Newton allowing anyone to get a free dose of the overdose reversal medicine.
They just have to take a 30-minute training session on how to recognize an overdose and how to administer the medicine that reverses it.
“We want to be sure that we’ve got this really important life-saving drug out in the community as best we can,” said Deborah Youngblood, Newton’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services.
In 2016, Youngblood said there were 16 fatal overdoses and 9 fatal overdoses in 2017. Many more go unreported.
“The opioid epidemic is happening across the country, and Newton is no exception,” said Youngblood.
Director of Social Services Pam Weissman is teaching the courses and handing out an informational kit that includes free Narcan to anyone who wants to learn, no questions asked.
“Even if somebody comes in and says I don’t know if I’m going to use it, if they could recognize the sign of an overdose and call 911 they could potentially save a life,” said Weissman.
Newton Wellesley hospital donated the first 100 doses of Narcan, and the city has budgeted for additional kits if the pilot program is successful. It might be—after 12 people have requested the training in the first week.
“We’ve seen a wide range of people, we’ve seen people who are concerned about themselves, we’ve seen people who are concerned about family members and we’ve had some local businesses call us,” said Weissman.
Youngblood added that if someone administered Narcan and the person didn’t overdose, it wouldn’t hurt them.
She said Narcan also doesn’t have any street value and you can’t get high from using Narcan, so the city doesn’t have to worry about putting those types of drugs out into the community. While there are many benefits to Narcan, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan says Narcan isn't the sole answer to opioid addiction.
“But what it does do is it gives someone another day and that might be the day that they have a moment of clarity and decide to seek treatment,” said Ryan.
The pilot program is also educational and includes resources on how to get someone struggling with addiction the help they need.
“The more we can take away the stigma and have an honest conversation and educating folks about what’s out there what’s available for treatment, how to stay away from opioids and falling into addiction in the first place we will all be safer,” said Ryan.
The program will be evaluated in the Spring of 2019 to determine its success and if the city wants to continue it.
For those who need resources on how to help a loved one struggling with addiction, Youngblood encouraged them to look at the city's website for additional information.
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