Opioid Task Force offers free nalaxone trainings


Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2019 10:26:12 PM

After three years of modest declines, the region saw an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths in 2018.

Last year, 22 Franklin County residents died of an opioid-related overdose, according to data from the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region. In 2017, nine people in the region died of an opioid overdose, while 14 died in 2016 and 18 died in 2015.

The increase is largely due to a rise in fentanyl use, according to Debra McLaughlin, coordinator of the Opioid Task Force. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.

“We had a record number of fatalities because of the deadly presence of fentanyl,” McLaughlin said. “After we saw some modest decline, it has come roaring back with a vengeance in 2018.”

To help combat the epidemic, the regional Opioid Task Force is offering four trainings this month in Shelburne Falls, Greenfield, Montague and Athol to show residents how to use naloxone, a type of medicine used to reverse an opioid overdose. Trainings will include instruction on how to recognize an opioid overdose. Two doses of Narcan, which is the brand name for naloxone, are available for free to participants of the training.

Trainings are scheduled for Wednesday, June 19 at 6 p.m. at Shelburne-Buckland Community Center; Thursday, June 20 at 6 p.m. at Greenfield Public Library; and Tuesday, June 25 at 6 p.m. at Montague Catholic Social Ministries. A training was held last week, June 12, in Athol at the North Quabbin Recovery Center.

McLaughlin said naloxone is a vital tool to save lives of victims of the opioid crisis, and while it has become more available and acceptable in recent years, there are still obstacles to its access related to money and stigma. She said naloxone comes at a cost and is only covered by some insurance plans. Also, she said people may feel less inclined to ask for naloxone out of fear of being judged.

“One has to be alive to get treatment,” McLaughlin said. “We want to make sure that this live-saving medication is broadly available.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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