Nearly 30 overdoses, 0 deaths: Local response to opioid crisis

HIV Alliance provides free injectable Nalaxone to the community through their syringe exchange program in an attempt to decrease the number of overdose deaths in Lane County. (Donny Morrison/Emerald)

In a three-day period between Friday, Sept. 21 and Monday Sept. 24, there were 23 opiate-related overdoses reported in the Eugene-Springfield area. According to The Register Guard, 16 of the victims were treated with Narcan, a brand of the drug Nalaxone,  which is commonly used to reverse the effects of opiates.

There were no reported deaths.

According to University of Oregon Police Department spokesman Kelly McIver, UOPD officers carry two doses of Narcan while on duty.

“UOPD had three Narcan saves in the community in the last year,” McIver said. “The fact that Narcan can be deployed by officers is a big advantage over a few years ago, as it was previously available only from a paramedic.”

HIV Alliance, a Eugene-based non-profit that supports people living with HIV/AIDs and works to prevent the spread of disease, has been instrumental in supplying Lane County and the surrounding regions with Narcan. Their syringe exchange program is responsible for handing out Narcan and clean syringes to IV drug users.

“For the past year and a half, we’ve helped law enforcement and community members become trained in the safe administration of Narcan, as well as making it widely available to the people who need it,” said Renee Yandel, executive director of HIV Alliance. “We don’t charge a fee for the Narcan we give out, whether it’s injectable or the nasal spray.”

Since February of 2018, Eugene police have been encouraged, though not required, to carry Narcan nasal spray. The department hosts optional training sessions to help officers become familiar with the drug and its safe administration. Just last week, HIV Alliance provided Cottage Grove PD, 22 miles south of Eugene, with their first batch of Narcan.

According to the Springfield Police, the recent spike in opiate overdoses is due to the widespread availability of Fentanyl in its pure form and heroin cut with fentanyl. HIV Alliance, as of this month, will be offering Fentanyl test trips at the syringe exchange seven days a week.

On Oct. 12, University of Oregon’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy group requested the HIV Alliance provide 50 nasal Narcan kits to have on campus. Chapter president Garrett Cantor believes that it’s important to have Narcan available on campus.

“I think everyone who is able to should carry Narcan with them,” Cantor said. “It’s something very easy to do that can save a life. You don’t have to be addicted to opiates to die from them.”

SSDP is an international non-profit advocacy group dedicated to reforming drug policy and ending what is commonly referred to as “The War on Drugs.” Cantor believes that reducing harm with services such as HIV Alliance and the syringe exchange helps addicts and the community as a whole.

“Harm reduction recognizes that people will use drugs and seeks to provide them with the respect, knowledge and resources to reduce the risks associated with drug use,” Cantor said.


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