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April 15, 2024

Alexander had 152 overdoses in 2023

Substance Use Disorder Prevention Coalition hears data at meeting

By ANGELA FARR KING

The Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Prevention Coalition met Tuesday, January 16, 2024, for their regularly scheduled meeting, with representation from county schools, mental health agencies, local law enforcement, local clergy, and concerned citizens. Shannon Childers, the Post Overdose Response Team (PORT)/Community Paramedic Coordinator, led the meeting.

Mallory Chapman and Kaitlyn Graves, from the Alexander County Health Department, gave a report about SUD community outreach efforts, which they develop and facilitate. They have had success with sharing their drug awareness educational materials with parents and guardians through area churches. Their goal is to visit each church in the county once per year to continuously update materials and inform about dangerous trends. They are looking for other churches who would be interested in hosting these educational events in order to educate their families.

Shannon Childers

Childers then gave an End of Year Report for PORT. He said there were 152 overdoses in Alexander County in 2023, which was a “dramatic increase” from 2021, with 84, and 2022, with 93. There were 14 deaths out of the 152 overdoses. Narcan, which is an opioid antagonist that “blocks the brain’s uptake of opioids by replacing them” (uwpd.wisc.edu), was used in 67 of the overdose cases. Childers also stated that his statistics reveal that the average age of users in 2023 was 38. He said 68% were men and 32% were women. The number one drug used in overdoses were “unknown pills,” with Fentanyl and unknown opioids coming in second and third places.

Childers said that in the upcoming year, his team will continue to fight for every individual and if “we can’t find the resources we need, we will create them.” He and his team continually follow up with overdose patients, if those patients will cooperate.

During the round table discussion, the use of Narcan was brought up because it is commonly used on patients who have overdosed. Childers said that emergency personnel don’t administer Narcan to “simply wake people up.” They use it to “regulate breathing, stimulate a heartbeat, and increase oxygen saturation.” Narcan is handed out by the PORT team and other emergency service providers after an overdose or if someone may be in danger of overdosing. It is also available over the counter at some pharmacies. The Mobile Café in Taylorsville, which offers free meals daily at lunchtime, also has Narcan available upon request. There is a Narcan vending machine that will soon be placed in Taylorsville, but the location has not been decided at this time.

There have been reports of “Narcan parties,” where it is used so that people can ingest large amounts of drugs with a “safety net” on the scene. This is extremely dangerous because sometimes a person may “wake up” after a dangerous overdose only to deteriorate quickly in just a few moments. These types of Narcan abuses have created a stereotype for the drug that Childers said is often necessary to save lives.

When asked if the increased availability of Narcan has increased the drug use in Alexander County, Childers said that the number one goal of his team is to save lives. Narcan is a valuable tool in saving those lives. A representative from RHA Health Services in Taylorsville added that “people who are dead cannot recover.” Childers said that he has to focus on saving the lives in order to then offer them resources for recovery. The SUD Coalition meets in order to share resources and work together to offer drug awareness education and prevention, as well as recovery resources.

Childers also said that there are other drugs coming toward Alexander County in the future that Narcan will not touch. This means that the education and resources will continuously change, which makes it even more important for community leaders to meet regularly to combat the problem of illegal drug use in Alexander County.

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