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A guide to opioid overdose reversal efforts on International Overdose Awareness Day

Project Safe Point's Joseph Filippone demonstrates to WAMC's Alexander Babbie how to adminster the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (brand name Narcan) on August 30, 2023.
Alexander Babbie
Project Safe Point's Joseph Filippone demonstrates to WAMC's Alexander Babbie how to adminster the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone (brand name Narcan) on August 30, 2023.

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, and it comes amid an alarming spike in fatal overdoses in Schenectady.

Officials have been warning all summer about a rash of fatal overdoses, urging anyone suffering from addiction to seek out services available in the county.

Police Chief Eric Clifford says the problem is acute in Schenectady.

“We've been seeing an increase due to the different types of drugs coming into our community,” Clifford said.

Authorities say help is available through Project Safe Point and the Alliance for Positive Health, among others. Localities are also ramping up Narcan training around the Capital Region.

Also known as Naloxone, the opiate overdose reversal drug is becoming a common sight in public places.

Joseph Filippone, Associate Executive Director of Project Safe Point, says people need to take action, and on a recent day in Albany, he demonstrated how to use a Narcan kit.

“We teach people to do is what's called a sternal rub or sternal grind. Really think conceptually, we always say it's just about stimulation to check the person. Hard up and down across the chest plate. But otherwise, just grab their arm, shout their name, look for response, you don't get some sort of response, that’s a fairly good indicator you're dealing with a medical emergency,” Filippone said.

So what to do?

“You're gonna need to run and grab your Narcan, grab your phone if they're not readily available to you. What we try to teach people to do if possible, is put them in what's called the recovery position or the rescue position. But again, dealing with person who's dead weight can be difficult in a moment like that. If you can't, it's more of a priority at this point to grab your phone and call 911 and get emergency services on the way and to give the Narcan. Grab your phone, grab your Narcan kit, call 911, explain a person’s overdosing, whatever they need to know,” Filippone said.

And then:

“Phone down, get your Narcan kit out, administer a dose of Narcan,” Filippone said.

Rip the tab on the kit and grab a dose.

“You don't need to manipulate this unit in any way, it's a perfect once you take it out of the package, it's already sort of perforated at the top, you're just gonna put in the nostril, spray the entire dose up. And so you're gonna press it through, till you see it, you might hear click, if not, it'll just stop, you'll feel it go through, you'll feel resistance, you'll be able to push anymore. That's the administration of one dose of Narcan,” Filippone said.

Then begin CPR and watch the person while you do it.

“Give it, say about 2 to 3 minutes to work. Look for that response, the person takes a breath,” Filippone said.

If that doesn’t happen?

“Get out your second dose of Narcan, give them the Narcan and then continue to do CPR until your emergency services arrive. Now, if you have more Narcan, you could get more Narcan. Most people are gonna have only the one kit. But if you have more Narcan, you will keep administering Narcan,” Filippone said.

Good Samaritan laws protect those who call for help, even if they might be using drugs themselves.

Filippone says the crisis isn’t going away.

“The supply’s the same, it’s messy. It's filled with fentanyl and now xylazine and a number of other substances as far as we can tell. We don't necessarily have a tool to combat that. I think you have Narcan. Great. We have like the test strips and those can help people. But at the end of day, the constant is the supply and so there's not a ton you can do at the moment to do about, like, fentanyl-laced heroin’s still fentanyl-laced heroin,” Filippone said.

Filippone says modern treatment plans are aimed at harm reduction, not punishment.

“People are moving towards the provision of buprenorphine, suboxone methadone through a model that- for a long time, the model looked at the idea of you’re a person who's dependent on drugs to get access to these medications that are the gold standard, data tells us they are the gold standard for someone sort of like, you know, reducing overdoses, adherence to treatment, adherence to abstinence, if that's a goal. Those things weren't readily available for a long time to a person, say I’m a person, for person like me , a person who has used for 10, 15 years of a dependency issues, addiction, etc. For a long time, if I wanted to get if I wanted to stop and I wanted to get access to those things, I would need to sort of be abstinent immediately,” Filippone said.

Filippone says barriers to treatment have been significantly lowered.

“We've expanded access to what they call Certified Recovery Peer Advocates, or CRPAs, or peer navigators, peers, sometimes the terms is used, of post treatment with individuals who have similarly been through treatment, and in recovery, and you now have support systems that go from, like, person is pre-contemplating beating, they're using drugs, and they're not thinking about changing behavior at all, all the way through, entered recovery, and sort of the ‘now what’ component of life,” Filippone said.

Filippone encourages those in need to reach out.

Some of the places home to Narcan stations include the Guilderland Public Library, Washington Avenue Albany Public Library Branch, the Berne Library, the Capital City Rescue Mission, University at Albany, Averill Park’s community center, the Lansingburgh School District, and three near Second Ave in Troy.

There’s more information at wamc.org.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.