Drug overdoses from heroin or pain medicine happen more often than you’d think. Just last week, 74 people overdosed on the west side of Chicago within a 72-hour period. They likely overdosed on tainted heroin.
I’ve written before about the high rate of overdoses in our local community. I surveyed a group of ten people who are in treatment for addiction to heroin or pain killers at our facility. Among these ten people, they had experienced eleven overdoses. When asked how many overdoses they had witnessed or known of among their peer group, they counted more than sixty. When asked how many of those overdoses resulted in death, they counted twenty-two.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an overdose reversal medication. How does it help? It is a narcotic antagonist which displaces opiates from receptor sites in the brain and reverses respiratory depression that is usually the cause of overdose deaths. It is only effective for an opiate overdose, not for overdoses from substances such as cocaine, benzodiazepine or methamphetamine. It has been used by emergency medical services for more than 40 years.
Until recently, doctors have been hesitant to prescribe Naloxone for fear of being held responsible for its misuse or possible death. However, doctors are now held harmless. Naloxone, and training on how to use it, is available by prescription to anyone who wants to have it on hand in case of emergencies. Although it is available, it can be costly. As demand increased, so did the cost. What had previously cost $20-$40 per overdose reversal kit, the cost has increased to $95 per kit. But it’s a small price to pay for a life. Overdose related deaths can be prevented when Naloxone is administered in a timely manner.
Our treatment facility, Galena Clinic, was approached by Pastor Jim McCrea and Nancy Mangrum of the First Presbyterian Church of Galena, Illinois. They asked if they could help in the recovery of people who suffer from substance abuse. First Presbyterian Church created the Josh Serpliss Hope Fund. This fund is made up of donations from various members of their congregation. Nancy Mangrum is a person in long term recovery. She wanted to help others in their recovery. Another large donation came from a family who lost a grandson to a drug overdose. The Presbyterian Session also put in a substantial donation. They chose to name the Fund for Josh Serpliss since he was the son of a pair of members who was going through drug treatment – apparently successfully – but made a fatal decision to go for one last high and died as a result.
We are grateful for the Josh Serpliss Hope Fund. They generously donated almost $6,000 for the distribution of Naloxone to our patients. It is our hope that our patients will never need Naloxone. But we feel more secure in the knowledge that they have access to this life saving medicine in the case of an emergency.
The holidays are a time of giving. A donation to the Josh Serpliss Hope Fund could save the life of someone’s son or daughter.