EVERETT — On Tuesday evening, eight community members learned how to save lives by using naloxone. It was the third such training at an Everett Public Library since last year.
As of September, 140 people in the county had died from an opioid overdose in 2022.
Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, can quickly restore normal breathing to a person who has overdosed on an opioid medication or a synthetic opioid like fentanyl. It acts by temporarily blocking the opioid receptors in the brain.
Opioids include fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine.
Amy Wheat, opioid outreach specialist for Snohomish County, delivered the training. She has been doing similar presentations for law enforcement, community organizations and members for about five years.
“It’s important for the community to have the knowledge of, really, what’s going on,” Wheat said.
People with substance use disorders or unhoused people bear the stigma of overdose, but over half of opioid overdoses in Snohomish County happen in a private home. About one-third happen in a public place, according to data from the county.
It can happen to anyone. Children might mistake pills for candy. Adults might use their own prescription pain medicine incorrectly or misuse someone else’s. And folks using drugs recreationally could unknowingly take something laced with a strong dose of fentanyl, Wheat said.
Overdose deaths from opioids have increased in Snohomish County in every year from 2017 to 2021. In the past several years, fentanyl has been the major contributor to those deaths.
Snohomish County has typically had a high rate of overdose deaths, relative to other counties in the state.
Local use of naloxone has been increasing, at least for those folks who end up in the emergency departments at Providence Everett and Swedish Edmonds hospitals. Over 75% of patients experiencing an opioid overdose have already received naloxone when they arrive, and about one in five received it from a friend, family member or bystander, according to county data.
Anyone in Washington can buy naloxone, without a prescription, because of a “standing order” from the state Department of Health. It is sold as a nasal spray or injection, and can safely be used for people of all ages.
Medicaid will pay for a box of two nasal sprays, and many insurance plans will cover at least part of the $120 to $165 retail price. The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance will also mail it for free.
According to Wheat, it can only help people experiencing an overdose of any kind — naloxone will not hurt them. But everyone should know when and how to use it safely.
Pharmacist Shawnett Stenberg, of Monroe, thought the training was “very good.” She came because she wanted to find out, as a provider, how to get more involved, perhaps even training others in her community.
“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” she said, “and I just wanted to find out how I can help my patients the best,” she said.
Abigail Cooley, director of the Everett Public Library, said the trainings meet a mission to inform and educate the community about timely and relevant issues in Everett. The library will partner with Snohomish County to deliver quarterly trainings in the coming year.
Wheat also helps people with substance use disorders find resources and support.
“We cannot help people if they are not alive,” she said. “I couldn’t stay in this job if there were no successes.”
Check the Everett library calendar, epls.org, the county, snohomishoverdoseprevention.com, and South County Fire, www.southsnofire.org, for individual or group trainings on naloxone.
CDC resources on naloxone: cdc.gov/opioids/naloxone
Free naloxone by mail: phra.org/mail-order-naloxone
For treatment and support for those with substance use disorders: snohomishoverdoseprevention.com/find-treatment-or-support/
Joy Borkholder is the health and wellness reporter for The Daily Herald. Her work is supported by the Health Reporting Initiative, which is sponsored in part by Premera Blue Cross. The Daily Herald maintains editorial control over content produced through this initiative.
Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.
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