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Rochester organizations host lessons on saving lives from opioid OD

Naloxone is essential to keeping people alive and ending the trend of opioid overdose deaths.

Naloxone Kit
The contents of a Naloxone overdose kit with a fentanyl tester in the Post Bulletin Studio on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Need to know how to save a life? That was the lesson Thursday, June 30, 2022, as four organizations worked to teach community members about the opioid crisis, signs of an overdose, and how to administer naloxone — commonly referred to by the brand name Narcan – and stop an overdose before it's gone too far.

“Any member of the community can benefit from carrying naloxone,” said Maddy Reagan, the overdose prevention manager at Steve Rummler HOPE Network. “You never know. Even just being at a grocery store, you could encounter someone experiencing an overdose and could be that person that could save that person's life.”

On Thursday, four groups — the Steve Rummler HOPE Network, in partnership with Recovery is Happening, the Diversity Council and the Rochester Community Initiative — hosted a naloxone training session.

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Naloxone, an opioid antagonist medication, comes in two types: injectable brands and nasal spray.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, opioid overdose deaths increased from 54 in 2000 to 678 in 2020. Part of the increase is due to the COVID-19 pandemic as addiction tends to thrive in isolation, so the pandemic likely exacerbated the addictions people faced.

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Reagan said preventing opioid overdoses is a passion as she considers herself in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. So, educating people on how to save a life is important.

Anywhere from bars and restaurants to libraries should have naloxone accessible to use, she said, because, as Reagan reiterated repeatedly, “It is a common sense public health tool.”

Carrying naloxone used to subject people to legal consequences, until 2014, when Minnesota passed Steve’s Law, named for Steve Rummler. The law provides limited immunity to those who call 911 when witnessing an overdose. It also allows first responders and people to carry naloxone.

“We do know that the reason that Steve's Law was implemented is because unfortunately, too many people died (from opioid overdoses),” Reagan said. “So it's really that idea of incentivizing people to call 911 to help their friends.”

There are four registered naloxone access points, where people can pick up free injectable naloxone and fentanyl test strip kits in Rochester: Doc’s Recovery House, Recovery is Happening, Nystrom & Associates and the Salvation Army Social Services Center.

All pharmacies also have naloxone stocked on shelves. Pharmacists can write prescriptions immediately for use.

Data from the DOH shows that opioid overdose deaths disproportionately affect communities of color; in Minnesota, Indigenous people are seven times more likely to die from a drug overdose as white people, and African Americans are twice as likely to die of an overdose compared to white people.

These rates aren’t due to high rates of drug use by these communities, as the opioid use rate is similar across all races and ethnicities, according to SRHN’s website. Rather, “socioeconomic and historical obstacles that account for numerous other overall health disparities” are to blame, according to the website. Examples include trauma, stereotyping and barriers to health services.

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SRHN is combating this impact by creating a campaign called Healing Together. It aims to “address the overdose rate disparities in Black communities through overdose prevention, awareness and strategic partnerships,” according to the website.

“We work with community members specifically within those communities to help us know how we can best help,” Reagan said.

The Diversity Council co-sponsored this event after realizing the need to educate the Rochester community on the stigma of overdose deaths attached to communities of color.

“I think (opioid overdoses) affect us in Rochester more than we even know,” said Heidi Wilkins, the outreach and K-16 education coordinator at the Diversity Council. “I think that, because of the stigma, that it's not talked about enough. And I don't even actually know (how well Rochester is equipped). But that's part of the problem. I don't know how they handle it or not.

"I know it's not talked about enough. I know that the resources aren't publicly known enough. And so that's partially why we did this to make sure that people can understand what's available to you, too.”

Abby Sharpe joined the Post Bulletin in February 2022 after graduating from Arizona State University with a sports journalism degree. While at ASU, she created short- and long-form stories for audio and digital. Readers can reach Abby at 507-285-7723 or asharpe@postbulletin.com.
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