Individuals from several Prince William-area non-profits came together to participate in a training on opioid overdose revival last week.
Streetlight Community Outreach, ACTS, the Manassas Hypothermia Shelter, the Prince William Free Clinic, HUGS, and Fire & Ice Angels completed a training with Ginny Lovitt, the Executive Director for The Chris Atwood Foundation.
“The Chris Atwood Foundation…is a nonprofit in Northern Virginia that is working to address the opioid overdose crisis, primarily through doing naloxone training…and increasing access to naloxone throughout the state of Virginia,” said Lovitt.
According to Lovitt, overdose is the number one cause of death for people under age 50, in large part due to the country’s opioid crisis.
“If you look at the overdose rates on a graph, you literally see about 2010, you see this big uptick, and then around 2013, it just starts going straight up,” said Lovitt.
For Lovitt, the mission is personal, as she was inspired to do the work after her own brother died of an overdose back in 2013.
During Lovitt’s trainings, she speaks about naloxone – often known by the brand name Narcan – the current laws surrounding it in Virginia, determining when and how to use it, and the types that can be administered to save a person’s life.
Anyone in Virginia is now legally able to carry and administer naloxone when they see someone that appears to have overdosed, and are in turn protected from liability, says Lovitt.
“There is protection from civil liability for anybody who is administering, prescribing, or dispensing naloxone,” said Lovitt.
According to Lovitt, in 2016 General Assembly House Bill 1548 established a “standing order” for naloxone, which essentially means that all residents living in Virginia have a “blanket prescription” for the medication, just as they are with the flu vaccine.
Similar House bills have helped to protect individuals calling in about opioid related emergencies and other legal protects, said Lovitt.
Using a dummy, Lovitt walked through the steps of determining if a person is overdosing.
“If someone is able to look at you or talk to you and is responsive, we don’t consider that to be an overdose – at least yet. But if they are not responding, we automatically consider that to be an overdose,” said Lovitt.
She also shared insight on how naloxone works – dispelling some myths about it.
“It’s a really, really miraculous medication…it’s been nicknamed the ‘Lazarus’ drug, because it can seemingly raise the dead,” said Lovitt.
All brains have opioid receptors, and the naloxone, once it enters a person’s system, “bumps off” the opioid from those receptors, essentially sending a person into withdrawal and pulling them out of their overdose, typically for a window of about an hour – giving them time to seek medical treatment for their overdose.
“It has no effect of its own – all it does is bump off opioids. So that means it’s not addictive, if I were to use it right now…I would feel nothing. If there’s not opioids on board, it doesn’t do anything at all,” said Lovitt.
Lovitt showed participants how to administer the three different variations of the naloxone medication and highlighted while some insurance companies will cover the cost and provide it, it varies and The Chris Atwood Foundation is working to provide affordable naloxone to anyone that wants to have it in the event someone they encounter overdoses.
To learn more about The Chris Atwood Foundation, click here.
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