PDT Staff Writer
Lorain County has decided to implement a Naloxone program modeled after Scioto County’s “Project D.A.W.N. (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone).” The project was named after Leslie Dawn Cooper, a local woman who lost her life to prescription drugs.
Naloxone is a drug that has been used by emergency responders and hospitals for several years, to reverse the effects of an overdose. Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth City Health Department said Naloxone has no potential for abuse; that it’s a safe drug and a harmless drug, and it can be administered inter-nasally by people who are minimally trained, when they are in a situation where somebody is overdosing.
“We got to be the pilot county for Ohio’s first Naloxone program,” Roberts said. “So we got to the the first county to implement this under a pilot project, which means that we start it; set the example; we develop all of the protocols and we try it out. Then, based on our success, other counties then can adopt our program.”
The seed money for the program locally was $40,000 from the Ohio Department of Health.
Lorain’s overdose death toll tripled last year to 60, up from 22 in 2011. Dr. Stephen Evans, the Lorain County Coroner, said at least 16 of the 60 deaths came when the victim shifted from expensive prescription drugs to heroin, a much cheaper and much stronger counterpart. The first initiative to combat the trend is to put Naloxone into the hands of non-medical first responders, mainly police officers and in some cases family members. A Lorain County think tank has looked at Scioto County’s “Project D.A.W.N.”
“A while back, Lorain County scheduled a conference call with me, and we did it on a computer,” Roberts said. “And they were telling me that they were also now seeing these really high rates of overdose in Lorain County. Basically, what happened was that when Scioto County squeezed, Northern Ohio bulged. So now, northern Ohio is just being really hard hit, like southern Ohio. It has gotten so much worse up there.”
The “squeeze” is in reference to the the closing down of all Scioto County pain clinics and the overall war on illegal drugs in Scioto County. The “bulge” means that much of the drug problem moved north.
The City Health Department, operating the Project D.A.W.N. program, has, so far, given out 80 overdose reversal kits at no charge. Roberts said, so far, five lives have been saved locally with the use of Naloxone.
Roberts said recently NADDI (National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators) came out with a statement that they endorse the Naloxone program, and that they want law enforcement to be able to have the kits in the hands of all first responders. She said there remains numerous things in the way blocking the program nationally, and those things have yet to be addressed legislatively.
Roberts said there is also a Draft Bill that is in the Ohio Legislative Commission now that is possibly going to be introduced in the near future which expands access to Naloxone and provides civil immunity to certain people who use it to attempt to reverse an opioid overdose. According to Roberts, Ohio Representative Michael Stinziano (D-18) is considering introducing the legislation, and Rep. Dr. Terry Johnson (R-90) is also considering co-sponsoring that bill.
“We are also working with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to expand access to Naloxone at the national level,” Roberts said. “The drug czar, Gil Kerlikowski, is definitely in favor of making Naloxone widely available in an effort to thwart the fatal overdose epidemic. (Portsmouth Health Commissioner) Chris Smith and myself were a part of a roundtable in Washington D.C. this past December, and will be working with ONDCP in the near future to address this at the national level. They are planning to hold Congressional Hearings sometime this year.”
Roberts said Cincinnati health officials will be in town next week to discuss the program and how that city might also implement a similar program in the future.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.