Boom in overdose-reversing drug is tied to fewer drug deaths

This July 3, 2018 file photo shows a Narcan nasal device which delivers naloxone. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

OGDEN — A group of local organizations are teaming up to combat opioid addiction in Ogden.

The Ogden Civic Action Network, or OgdenCAN, will host a free naloxone training session from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership, 3159 Grant Ave.

In partnership with OWCAP and the Weber-Morgan Health Department, the OgdenCAN training will feature medical specialists who travel all over Northern Utah educating the public on the proper use of naloxone.

The drug, which is sold under the brand name Narcan, safely reverses heroin and prescription opioid overdoses by blocking the affects of opiates on the brain. Naloxone is legal and can be purchased without a prescription. It’s known to restore the breathing of someone experiencing an opioid overdose in just minutes. According to the Utah Department of Health, there is no potential for abuse and side effects are rare. The drug is not known to have any ill-effects if administered to a person who isn’t experiencing a heroin or opioid overdose.

Jesse Bush, division director of Health Promotions with the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said the Ogden downtown area had the second highest rate of opioid and heroin overdoses in Utah between 2014 and 2016. Health Department spokesperson Lori Buttars said an area on the Carbon/Emery county border was the only place in the state to outpace downtown Ogden.

Bush, who also serves as co-chair of the OgdenCAN Health Subcommittee with Nicki Bray from OWCAP, said socioeconomics, mental health, poverty and poor housing conditions likely contribute to the downtown Ogden’s high overdose rate.

“I don’t know that we have an exact answer, or one thing we can point to,” he said. “There are many factors at play.”

The Utah Naloxone organization has delivered more 56,000 naloxone kits since July 2015. The group has recorded around 3,200 known overdose reversals in that time, according to Jennifer Plumb, medical director of Utah Naloxone.

“It really works,” Bush said of naloxone.

Following the Wednesday training session, the coalition will host a community conversation about the opioid epidemic. The town hall style meeting will feature key community leaders and participants will be asked to provide local feedback to help identify gaps in community resources and outline ways to stop opioid abuse. The meeting will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Weber County Main Library, 2464 Jefferson Ave., Ogden. A light dinner will be provided.

Those interested in the events can register at the Weber-Morgan Health Department Facebook page.

OgdenCAN is an alliance of several anchor institutions, founded by Weber State University, involving stakeholders and partner organizations committed to aligning resources to improving health, housing and education among the 15,000 residents of Ogden’s east-central neighborhood. For more information, visit http://weber.edu/ogdencan.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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