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In Worst Year for Overdoses, 17 W.Va. Counties Host Largest Free Naloxone Day

By Staff | Sep 8, 2021

On September 2, 2021, 17 West Virginia Counties came together to host the largest day of free naloxone distribution in the state.

West Virginia lost 1,349 family members to fatal overdoses last year, which was the first year the state lost an average of three residents a day. On Thursday Seventeen counties hosted free naloxone booths across 74 locations, including churches, clinics, colleges, gas stations, parks, supermarkets, and even a pet shop. Participants in Wetzel County received one Narcan kit (2 doses), education, medication disposal bags, resources, and more.

Participating counties included: Kanawha, Cabell, Berkeley, Monongalia, Logan, Mercer, Ohio, Harrison, Wayne, Marion, McDowell, Jefferson, Putnam, Boone, Wyoming, Morgan, & Wetzel. Together, these counties accounted for two thirds of the state’s fatal drug overdoses in 2020. Organizers distributed over 4,000 naloxone kits (or over 8,000 doses) throughout the day. Each of the 74 locations were made possible by local volunteers who attended training to be able to participate. There were more than 50 volunteers among the four sites in the Northern Panhandle.

Family members, friends of people who take opioids for pain, friends of people who use drugs, and anyone who wanted to save a life were welcome to get trained on September 2, 2021 from 12-6pm at West Virginia Northern Community College, New Martinsville Campus parking lot. Youth Services System Inc. and Take Action of Wetzel County partnered to coordinate the Save a Life Day in Wetzel County. All sites were drive-thru locations, and masks were encouraged during face-to-face contact. The Wetzel County was co-lead by Dawnita Springer Matthews of Take Action and Martha Polinsky of Youth Services System Inc.

“Take Action wass honored to co-host Save A Life Day. We have a wonderful recovery community and each and every success story brings a wave of hope for the future,” Springer Matthew’s said. The New Martinsville site was held on the campus of West Virginia Northern Community College.

Many people know naloxone as its brand name, Narcan. Narcan is an easy-to-use nasal spray with no adverse side effects that works to reverse opioid overdoses. This year is the 50th anniversary of naloxone’s FDA approval. Most of the naloxone for Save a Life Day was provided by the WV Office of Drug Control Policy.

It is a fact that Naloxone saves lives. The Narcan nasal spray that was supplied is easy to use and requires no assembly. Everyone is important to someone, and whether an opioid overdose is a child who accidentally ingests pills, a grandmother with memory lapses who took too much pain medicine, or a neighbor with substance use disorder, these lives are worth saving. Naloxone is available without a prescription at pharmacies in West Virginia with little or no co-pay.

“Once a life is saved with Narcan the next step is to help them find proper services to help them receive medical care, mental health or substance use treatment services. Take Action and YSS is working on initiatives and strategies to motivate recovery services,” states Martha Polinsky, State Opioid Response Engagement Specialist of Youth Services System Inc.

Over the past few years, states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey have organized their own statewide Free Naloxone Days. Kanawha and Putnam Counties in West Virginia launched the first pilot Save a Life Day in the fall of 2020. The idea struck a chord in the mountain state, and West Virginia’s mass distribution is expected to be the largest statewide effort in the nation.