Naloxone more widely available
The recovery home David Dunkel runs doesn't have any anti-overdose drugs yet, but he plans on getting some — after all, the next time someone overdoses there, it won't be the first, or the second, or even the third time it's happened.
"Yeah, it’s something we’re interested in," he said.
Having that drug there might not have helped those people who did die of overdoses — a couple of them locked themselves in their rooms or the bathroom, and no one could get to them until it was too late, Dunkel believes — but there could be circumstances where the drug could save a life, he said.
The York chapter of the organization Not One More, which aims to help those addicted to heroin and raise awareness about the drug, received a donation of 200 kits of EVZIO, a brand of the anti-overdose drug naloxone; around 100 of them will go to local recovery houses, with the other half being made available to the general public during a Saturday, Dec. 12, event that will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the York Learning Center at 300 E. Seventh Ave. in North York.
Vickie Glatfelter, one of the chapter's co-founders, said people who want the naloxone should come at the start and sign up, as it's first come, first served. Everyone there will sit through a documentary about heroin and a presentation about naloxone and about drug-treatment efforts. The kits were given as part of a grant by Kaleo, the Virginia-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug.
Glatfelter's son Robert died in April 2014 from an overdose while he was supposed to be in a recovery home. Officials have said people who have stopped using and then go back to it are in extra danger of suffering a fatal overdose. Glatfelter said the same.
"They’re some of the population that’s at the greatest risk for overdosing," she said.
That's why the chapter wants to try to get so many of the kits to recovery houses.
"The goal is to get them in every (recovery) house," she said.
Each kit contains a single-use injector, and provides visual and auditory aids for the user. Naloxone immediately blocks the effect of an opioid, ending the overdose. The local Not One More chapter has reached out to what Glatfelter said were all the recovery houses they knew of — the establishments aren't regulated or exhaustively kept track of by the government or any other organization — to try to get them some of the kits.
Dunkel said the chapter got in touch with him, and he's working with them with the goal of getting eventually getting some once he gets his employees trained and figures out how he's going to store the antidote.
Julie Hess, who co-owns a group of recovery and sober homes around the area, said they do already keep kits in the office. She said she'll be going to Not One More's presentation to learn more about naloxone. Her recovery homes have never had someone overdose in them, but she knows it's something that could happen.
"We feel it wouldn't be a bad idea to have on hand," she said.
'Epidemic': Through the first 11 months of 2015, York County had 47 confirmed heroin-related deaths and seven deaths that likely were related to heroin, but are awaiting the toxicology report to confirm, according to the York County Coroner's Office. Coroner Pam Gay estimates close to twice that many people have been saved by police using Narcan when they've found people overdosing. Police began carrying the anti-overdose drug in April.
Last year saw 62 people die of heroin-related overdoses, far more than in any preceding year. Local officials have repeatedly called the recent spike an "epidemic."
A 2014 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends naloxone be made available to as many "laypersons" as possible, especially to people who may be around people who are using opioids. During 2013, 93 organizations reported distributing or prescribing naloxone to 37,920 laypersons in the United State; the 68 organizations that collect reports of reversals documented 8,032 people saved, according to the report.
Antoinette Sacco, CEO of the Colonial House drug and alcohol treatment programs, said her organization already has several kits in both the in-patient and out-patient locations. They've had them for a couple of months, and haven't had to use them.
"It's better to be safe than sorry," she said.
Both she and Glatfelter acknowledge some people don't think it's a good idea to have the antidote so readily available. People of this opinion say it creates a sort of moral hazard by removing the most dire consequences of using drugs.
In response to the question of what Sacco's opinion of that was, she was concise, merely asking a rhetorical question: "So you would rather rather have them die?"
— Reach Sean Cotter email@example.com.