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Columbia, County partner on naloxone awareness

By Joseph Abraham
Posted 10/14/22

SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a controversial topic for some who argue if you give it to people they will continue to use drugs and that it won’t help …

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Columbia, County partner on naloxone awareness


SULLIVAN COUNTY –– Use of Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a controversial topic for some who argue if you give it to people they will continue to use drugs and that it won’t help them wean off addictive substances. There is also fatigue among first responders who repeatedly use Narcan on the same individuals. But as Sullivan County Health and Human Services Commissioner John Liddle explains, “You can’t get somebody into treatment who dies.” 

That belief, he says, is shared by both the Sullivan County Drug Task Force and Columbia University, who are leading a large-scale, multi-county campaign to increase awareness of naloxone in the hardest-hit places in NYS, including Sullivan. The County will be working with Columbia until late 2023.

Columbia University has a goal of decreasing the number of opioid overdose deaths in the counties they’re working with by 40 percent over the life of the ongoing HEALing Communities Study. More info on the initiative can be found at www.healingcommunitiesstudy.org/communities/nysullivan.html.

Liddle explained that Columbia is looking at treatment options, safer prescribing options, and with Narcan specifically, the focus is on saving lives, so in a crisis moment, someone who overdoses has a chance to do more to help themselves over time.

“Narcan is extremely effective at saving lives,” said Liddle. “When it is given to somebody who overdoses, it can literally bring them back to life in very short order, and has very limited side effects … So we feel it’s important to have this out there, because it just gives us that many more chances to help somebody get off of drugs and rebuild their life.”

The partnership between Columbia and the County started back in July, says Liddle, and the Drug Task Force and advisors from Columbia are currently looking at how to best spend the funds, which they term “community impact dollars.” 

Liddle said they’re looking at education and making Narcan more accessible. This includes innovations like Narcan vending machines, as well as making sure first responders have enough, and that it’s placed in locations where there are folks that are at high risk. They’re also going to use some of the funding on trainings so people know what Narcan is and how to use it, in the event they’re in a situation where they might need to save a life.

Columbia is also providing funds for staffing that assists the County with reviewing and collecting data, so that they can make better decisions on where to more effectively place Narcan in the future; for other strategies that will develop additional treatment options; and to advocate to prescribers to be “much more careful” with distributing opioids.

While Liddle says the Columbia partnership is bringing a couple hundred thousand dollars to the table, it is just one piece of the Sullivan County Drug Task Force’s broader effort.

“There is a Narcan component to all the different things that we do,” he said. “For example, if somebody is in treatment, we want to make sure they have access to Narcan if they have a relapse. So the treatment pillar looks at that kind of thing. When we talk about the prevention pillar, we’re doing education in schools so that kids don’t get mixed up in this stuff to begin with …,”  adding that naloxone boxes have also been distributed to local schools.

“Making sure folks have access to Narcan when they get out of jail and they’ve gone through some treatment there [is also important],” Liddle continued. “There’s all sorts of different initiatives where Narcan is the safety valve on top of all of the other things that we’re doing. So if all else fails, we can save a life in the instant and then kind of hopefully reset, and figure out what the next step is for a particular person after they’ve had an overdose.” 



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