Save the date! Mon Co. QRT holds another Save a Life Day
Apr. 14, 2022
By Mary Wade Burnside
Last September, members of the Monongalia County Quick Response Team (QRT), along with dozens of volunteers, handed out more than 1,400 doses of naloxone ¬— which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose — and trained individuals how to use the medication at several stations around the community.
Seven months later, the QRT hopes to exceed those results, with more than 2,000 doses that will be available for another Save a Life Day, held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at 11 locations around Monongalia County.
And for anyone who would like to join the fight and work as a volunteer, this online signup sheet will allow them to do just that.
“Our goal is to save as many lives as possible. Recovery is only possible if the individuals are still breathing,” said Jon Dower, director of operations of West Virginia Sober Living and a member of the Monongalia County QRT.
“Education and dispelling myths related to naloxone allow for a reduction in stigma and encourages our community to be part of the solution to this disease plaguing our community and our state.”
The opioid epidemic that has afflicted the nation has hit West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia hard. It’s been exactly three years since members of the Monongalia County QRT began meeting at Monongalia County Health Department, which secured grant funding for the group.
While the COVID pandemic has definitely had negative effects on individuals struggling with addiction, the rise of online virtual meetings, such as Zoom, has allowed our QRT to grow beyond county and state borders and made it much easier to exchange ideas and find solutions to help people.QRT members also hear about the latest trends of what drugs are out on the streets. "Recently, there has been an increased incidence of fentanyl added to other drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines and ecstasy,” said Joe Klass, chief of operations of MCHD Threat Preparedness and a paramedic.
“There are also numerous reports of fentanyl being pressed into pills to resemble other types of medications,” Klass continued. “These types of counterfeits are often very difficult to spot. One of the takeaways from this is the importance of having naloxone and naloxone training even if you don't think you will have any interactions with opioids or opioid use."
Dower also believes that individuals should consider having naloxone in first aid kits and medicine cabinets, where it has been vital in saving the lives of children who might sample something or individuals with memory issues who have difficulty taking the correct dosage of their medications.
“The community should understand that not all overdoses are related to substance misuse,” Dower said. “There are accidental ingestions of pain medication by children and the elderly. If a home has opioid pain medication, I also encourage that naloxone also be kept nearby.”
He added: “Through education, our community members can understand warning signs of an opioid overdose and feel prepared to administer this life-saving medication.”
Locations for the second Save a Life Day are: five McDonald’s restaurants — Sabraton, Star City, Westover, Suncrest Towne Centre and Pierpont Center; the green space at the West Virginia University Mountainlair and also at the WVU Rec Center; Pierpont Landing Pharmacy; 7-Eleven in Blacksville; Hotel M on Saratoga Avenue and Woodland United Methodist Church on the Mileground.
For this Save a Life Day, the Monongalia County QRT will not only offer naloxone training and doses, but also, at some locations, COVID vaccines and rapid HIV testing. COVID vaccines will be available at the Sabraton and Westover McDonald’s, the Mountainlair, Hotel M and Woodland United Methodist Church. If you are getting a second COVID dose or a booster, please bring your vaccination card if possible. HIV rapid testing will be conducted at the Sabraton McDonald’s.
Like last year, anyone who wants to learn more about naloxone can visit one of the locations between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. “We’ll just train them as they arrive, however it works best,” said Dan McCawley of WV PEERS, a network of certified peer recovery coaches (PRCs) with lived addiction experience. “If just one person rolls up, we’ll teach them too.”
The Monongalia County QRT is made up of members representing Monongalia County Health Department; WV PEERS; other addiction specialists; law enforcement; EMS; health care workers; social agencies; faith groups and more.
When MECCA 911, EMS or a police department get a report of an individual who has overdosed, it is shared to a HIPAA-compliant Dropbox account. WV PEERS members check reports frequently and try to make contact with the individual within 24 to 72 hours of the incident.
The main goal is to get the person into treatment. However, whether or not the individual is ready to commit to recovery, PRCs can also help with connections to health and social services as well as naloxone.
Between members of WV PEERS and Klass, about 2,200 individual naloxone trainings have been held in Monongalia County since the QRT’s inception, with around 6,000 doses of naloxone distributed.
“The training is fast, easy and, more importantly, it will give participants the knowledge, skills and confidence to save a life,” Klass said. “In medicine, it’s rare to have a drug that is easy to administer, highly effective and that works quickly. Naloxone is all three of these things, and it’s important that we promote its use and give access to this life-saving drug in all populations.”
Added Dower: “I think from watching TV, people think administering naloxone is difficult, but it’s not. Naloxone is a single-use package that goes up one nostril and then it’s pressed. It’s as simple as that. We’re not asking individuals to engage in interactions that involve bodily fluids. It’s a quick administration of medication and the goal is to get 911 involved to get more help.”
Also, instructions on the box provide a quick refresher course for those administering naloxone, he added. Individuals can also watch the QRT’s naloxone video to learn more.
And when Dower has saved someone’s life by using naloxone, he realizes it’s not just that individual he has helped.
“As a person with a decade in recovery, I understand the impact of substance use disorder on the family,” Dower said. “If I can save someone’s mother, father, sibling or child with naloxone, then I am saving one of the worst experiences of those family members’ lives. Not one person needs to die from an opioid overdose, when there is access and training on naloxone.”
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.