By Ashley Reeves and Christina Giruzzi
Throughout the country, the heroin and opioid crisis have placed a serious burden on law enforcement and other government agencies. Communities such as Brockport and Monroe County have felt the effects of the opioid crisis. The epidemic hits close to home for many of those from Monroe County.
Last year, in response to the growing epidemic, police in Brockport began carrying and administering Narcan, a medication that reverses the effect of an opioid overdose. In the six months since, Brockport police have administered Narcan over half a dozen times, saving many from overdosing
According to a report published by the Monroe County Heroin Task Force, over 1000 overdoses were reported in Monroe County last year alone and 166 deaths. As of August 2018, the Monroe County Department of Public Health expanded its existing outreach efforts to include individuals who have recently survived an overdose by using data compiled by local law enforcement. As part of the outreach, staff from the Department of Public Health will provide Narcan at no cost, as well as connect them with long term treatment and recovery options beyond a short term detox bed. The goal, according to Monroe County’s Opioid Action Plan, is to promote long term recovery and assist individuals struggling with addiction by providing them with access to a wider array of services intended to break the cycle of relapse.
“Narcan is very important because it can help reverse an overdose and the opioid epidemic is a very serious crisis right now in the county,” said Claire Hermann, an RN with the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
Hermann says that part of her job includes reaching out to those who have recently survived an overdose and helping them in any way possible in order to help them get back on their feet.
“When I reach out to someone, I usually ask them how they are doing and what is it that I can do to make things easier for them, whether it be getting them [into] treatment or just providing them with [other resources],” said Hermann.
Hope Dealers Be the Change is an organization focused around the Rochester area that has made and continues to make huge impacts in helping the opioid epidemic. The organization spends every Sunday with volunteers cleaning up used needles in the Rochester area and also boards up “hot spots”, or abandoned properties that are often used by those suffering from the addiction.
As of March 24, 2019, Hope Dealers Be the Change has cleaned up 69,535 needles from the streets of Rochester. They just recently began administering Narcan and CPR, where they have proudly saved one life. They have also helped 92 people into recovery.
“Without Narcan, lots of our volunteers and other people in the recovery community who are making a huge difference in the lives of other people who are struggling, wouldn’t be here to do that,” said Stephanie Forrester, founder of Hope Dealers Be The Change. “One of our many goals is to make sure we can get anyone we can, especially active users, to carry Narcan. It is literally life or death.”
As part of its efforts to address the growing crisis, the village of Brockport recently began hosting a monthly Gates to Recovery drop-in center for those recovering from substance abuse and for their families as well. Gates to Recovery began in Gates in response to the growing opioid crisis and has expanded to over five locations in Monroe County, including Brockport. The College at Brockport has also been working to offer Narcan training to students, staff and community members. It is often advertised through the Daily Eagle, as well as fliers throughout the campus. The training is offered to help prepare anyone who is present to remain calm and follow protocol to assist someone who has overdosed on an opioid.
“I hadn’t heard about them [the training sessions] but if I had, I probably would have liked to have taken part so I can learn more about [Narcan]. It would be a good thing to have in case there was ever an emergency,” said Abby St. Denis, an English major at the College. “You never know what kind of situation life will throw at you and it’s better to be prepared.”