Mon Co. QRT to hold mini-Free Naloxone Day on March 9
Mar. 7, 2023
By Mary Wade Burnside
Before West Virginia University students head off for spring break on March 11, they will have the opportunity to obtain free naloxone —which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose — and to learn how to use it.
That is by design, said Brittany Irick, coordinator of the Monongalia County Quick Response Team (QRT), which will provide naloxone at three locations as well as via a mobile unit that will target areas that have been hard hit with overdoses. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, March 9.
“The big reason we are doing this at this time of year is that we want to focus on college students,” said Irick, of Monongalia County Health Department, which obtains grants to fund the multi-organization QRT.
“This is around the time that college students will be getting ready for spring break, and we want to get naloxone into their hands before they leave town.”
Naloxone, in this case, the brand Narcan, is a nose spray that can be administered quickly and easily to someone who has overdosed on an opioid. Naloxone gets someone breathing again and gives emergency services time to reach the individual and provide additional care and, if needed, transportation to a hospital.
At the hospital, the individual can talk to a QRT member stationed at the emergency department. They also might be visited within 72 hours of the overdose by one of the QRT’s peer recovery coaches, each of whom has dealt with substance misuse and become certified to help others. These QRT members try to connect the individual to any needed services, including help finding a rehabilitation facility.
“Naloxone use can lead to breathing again,” said Jon Dower, executive director of West Virginia Sober Living Solutions and a QRT member. “Breathing can lead to recovery, productivity and being able to see loved ones again.”
Dower continued: “There is too much pain related to opioids, too many parents left without children, too many grandparents raising grandchildren. We can do better as West Virginians. Naloxone gives us the chance to not lose an entire generation of those we love.”
In addition to naloxone, fentanyl test strips also will be provided during Free Naloxone Day. While some parents might think this is overkill for college students having fun at a beach town during spring break, it is very easy for individuals to take what they believe are recreational drugs that unknowingly have been laced with a deadly amount of fentanyl.
“We want to educate them to test drugs before they use them to alert them if there happens to be fentanyl in those drugs,” Irick said.
Free Naloxone Day locations include the WVU Rec Center, The Greenbrier Room at the Mountainlair and Morgantown Art Party, in addition to the mobile unit that will travel around the area. COVID and flu vaccines will be offered at the WVU Rec Center.
This will be the Monongalia County QRT’s fourth community-wide naloxone event. The first two, branded as Save a Life Day, were held in fall 2021 and spring 2022. The first Free Naloxone Day was a statewide event on Sept. 8, 2022. The next statewide Free Naloxone Day will be held on Sept. 14 and Monongalia County Health Department will once again participate, this time with additional locations.
Amounts of naloxone given out at the first three events were, respectively, 1,428 doses (714 kits of two), 1,620 doses (810 kits) and 2,074 doses (1,037 kits).
“This has been a pretty successful event in the past, and it’s not just for people who use drugs,” Irick said. “It’s also a good resource for family members of individuals with substance use disorder and college kids, parents and pretty much anyone.
“Anyone can receive Narcan training,” she continued. “You never know when you are going to encounter an overdose. It’s free and the training is super quick and easy, and it can save a life.”
For those who miss Free Naloxone Day, there are other options for training and kits. Joe Klass, of Monongalia County Health Department’s Threat Preparedness program, offers naloxone training and can be reached at Joseph.L.Klass@wv.gov.
Wes Thomas, a QRT member and health educator at WELLWVU, conducts monthly trainings and groups or individuals also can email him for training at email@example.com. He also can hand out fentanyl test strips. Additional information can be found at well.wvu.edu/resources/drugs-alcohol/fentanyl-test-strips.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.