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Opioid Overdose Prevention

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Concern around opioid overdose has been on the rise across the country over the past several years. In 2014, more people died in the United States from drug overdoses than from car accidents or gun violence, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. In Chatham, many groups are working to prevent opioid overdose, and the Access to Mental Health Services Subcommittee serves as a convener for several initiatives. These initiatives range from upstream prevention efforts to strategies to reverse overdoses when they occur.

From September 2016-May 2017, a team of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Health Policy and Management students has partnered with the subcommittee to assess and address opioid misuse and overdose in Chatham County. In the fall 2016, the team interviewed several local stakeholders and gathered relevant data and background information, which they compiled into a report that was presented to the subcommittee. The report can be found here:
Opioid Overdose in Chatham County. After reviewing this information with the team, the subcommittee decided to focus its efforts on preventing opioid misuse among youth. Thus, the team is working during the spring 2017 to develop educational materials for school staff, social workers, and parents about the dangers and warning signs of opioid misuse, as well as community resources. Chatham Drug Free has been a key partner in these efforts. This project is also supported by Prescription Drug Overdose Activity funding through the NC Division of Public Health.

Narcan 2016 Sheriffs OfficeAnother success came in late 2016, when the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office adopted a policy for its officers to carry Naloxone, a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of opioids, which is specifically used in the event of an overdose. Public Health Department staff and Alliance members worked with the Sheriff and local partners such as the NC Harm Reduction Coalition purchase the Naloxone, draft the policy, and train officers on how to administer it.  “It is important for people to know that individuals who call for assistance for someone who has overdosed are exempt from facing criminal charges,” Sheriff Roberson said in an announcement about the policy. “Their call may be the difference between life and death for a victim, and we need them to call right away.”