Healthy Communities of the Capital Area is holding a free training session at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Gardiner Public Library for area residents to learn how to help curb opiate prescription drug abuse that’s affecting Gardiner and neighboring communities.

The training, which will be conducted by MaineGeneral Health educator Nicole Rau and HCCA staff member Rebecca Hanscom, will focus on ways to reduce access to prescription medication, prevent drug-related crime and protect the health and safety of community members.

It follows a Nov. 12 community meeting at which local officials and law enforcement urged community members to take action to help curb access to drugs that flow through the area. More than 100 people attended the meeting, at which police Chief James Toman said his officers have responded to five drug overdose deaths this year in which the victims were ages 29 to 37. At least three others were resuscitated successfully by Gardiner fire crews, he said.

Fire Chief Al Nelson said Gardiner crews responded to 53 drug overdoses in the nine communities it serves, and 23 of those overdoses were in Gardiner.

He said rescue crews used Narcan 17 times. Narcan is an injectable prescription medication that can reverse an opiate overdose.

Last year, 1 in 4 Maine residents was prescribed at least one opioid, according to Maine Prescription Monitoring Program data.

HCCA Executive Director Joanne Joy said that given the volume of prescription drugs in communities, safe disposal of unused drugs is critical.

“We need to keep the momentum going,” she said. “This training is the next step in helping stem the tide of abuse and overdose. By working together as a community, we can make strides to address this threat to our families, our friends and our neighbors.”

To register, call HCCA at 588-5027.

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