Overdose deaths have been on the rise the last few years.
In the four-county area of Armstrong, Clarion, Indiana, and Butler, a total of 705 reported overdose deaths occurred from 2011-2017. Of that number, 227 were individuals from Armstrong County.
According to Executive Director Kami Anderson at the Armstrong Indiana Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission, the numbers are slowly changing.
“Three years ago, Armstrong County was the second highest county in PA for fatal overdose. Philadelphia was first, Armstrong County was second, and Indiana was fourth. We have serious problem. A lot of people in Armstrong County are either using or someone in their family is using.”
Anderson said the use of Naloxone, also called Narcan, has made a difference.
“We were able to bring down the number of fatal overdoses. Three years ago it was 40 deaths. Last year it was 40 again, which, for us, was an accomplishment because the counties around us are skyrocketing. This year, the deaths were 11 according to Armstrong County Coroner Brian Myers. So it is making a difference.”
Naloxone did make a difference in the life of a 29-year-old man from Ford City this week on Tuesday afternoon. State Police Troopers Codi Walker and Greg Durick responded to Staley’s Motel in Rayburn Township for an overdose. Two vials of Narcan were administered and saved his life. He was treated on the scene and transported to ACMH Hospital by Kittanning Hose Co. #6 Ambulance Service.
Anderson said it is because it was readily available that overdose deaths are decreasing.
“We tried to flood the county with Narcan (Naloxone). So all first responders, and family members, and anyone that wants it can walk into our office on Vine Street and we will give it to you. You do not need a prescription. You just need to sit through a training. I carry it all the time because there is a possibility you will go into a bathroom (at a local business establishment) and you could find someone who has overdosed.”
This week, the state tried to make it even easier to get the overdose reversal medication to the general public by offering it at outlets in every county. By 3PM yesterday, Butler, Indiana, and Westmoreland counties had run out of it due to the high demand.
“We were hopeful that we would have this response to the Naloxone distribution,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We are excited that Pennsylvanians are stepping up to help save lives.”
More than 4,500 kits were dispensed yesterday throughout Pennsylvania as part of the Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week.
“This medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and gives the patient a chance at recovery,” Dr. Levine said.
“We cannot get someone into treatment if they are dead,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said. “Naloxone saves lives and we should all carry it because you never know when you will get the chance to help someone. This year alone, emergency medical services have saved more than 9,000 Pennsylvanians using Naloxone and transported 92 percent of them to the hospital for treatment.”
Once the life is saved, Anderson said the next step is recovery.
“Our goal is to get people to be clean, and then stay clean, which is the hardest part of recovery,” she said.
For more information in obtaining your free kit, go to the Armstrong Indiana Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission office in Kittanning at 354 Vine Street or call them at 724-545-1614.