By John Lynds
The opioid crisis in East Boston and across the U.S. has reached epic proportions. Nearly 2,000 people died of opioid related overdoses in Massachusetts last year with an average of 38 opioid deaths per day in the state for 2016.
To combat the rise in opioid overdoses, many cities and towns began equipping First Responders with the drug naloxone, more commonly known by its brand name Narcan, that reverses the affects of a potentially deadly opioid overdose.
Recently, the Baker-Poliito Administration announced it will provide $100,000 of Narcan to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC). The Health Center will be one of 10 community health centers receiving the drug as part of increasing public awareness about the important role of the overdose reversal drug in saving lives.
“The opioid crisis has broken many families across the Commonwealth and our administration remains committed to providing resources to our communities to curb this public health epidemic,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Expanding access to naloxone for health care workers on the front lines of this epidemic is a valuable tool and we are pleased to award these grants to strengthen services at community health centers in Massachusetts.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) more than 2,800 bystanders were able to reverse overdoses by using Narcan. More than 13,000 people were trained and provided Narcan in 2016, pushing the total number of people trained statewide to more than 56,000.
“We are very pleased to be a partner of GE and participating in the SUSTAIN Grant which is allowing us to service more patients with Narcan”, said Dr. Jackie Fantes, Chief Medical Officer for the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. “The Opioid epidemic is very serious and we, along with other health centers, appreciate whatever resources we have to combat it”.
The new naloxone funding coincides with the debut of an updated statewide public information campaign targeting people who use opioids, as well as their families and friends. The campaign encourages people to carry and use naloxone at the first signs of an overdose and to call 911 for help.
The campaign will appear on billboards, trash kiosks, bus shelters, and in convenience stores and public bathrooms, as well on digital and social media platforms. It will run through the end of July.
“The more people who administer naloxone the better our chances of reducing the magnitude and severity of harm related to opioid overdose deaths,’’ said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “By making naloxone as widely available as possible, we can save more lives and provide opportunities for treatment and recovery.’’