AUGUSTA — City councilors received Narcan and training in how to administer it Thursday night in hopes they could help save the life of someone having an overdose.

Officials of Maine Access Points, a group working to broaden access to opioid overdose prevention and harm reduction services, trained city councilors, Mayor David Rollins and some city staff, step-by-step via a Zoom presentation at Thursday’s council meeting, on what to do should they find someone having a drug overdose.

Councilors were also provided with Narcan emergency opioid medication packets, which included two doses of Narcan — the nasal version of the medication naloxone.

Augusta Police officers enter 10 Noyes Court in Augusta on April 28 after the bodies of two men were discovered in an apartment. Police believe both men died of a drug overdose. Maine recorded its worst year for drug overdoses in 2020, with 502 deaths. The monthly data of overdose deaths supplied by the Maine Attorney General’s Office was last updated in February with 45 fatal drug overdoses, according to mainedrugdata.org. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Maine Access Points officials said they will also provide naloxone to members of the public in Maine — and will deliver or mail it — to people who undergo their virtual or in-person training session. While the organization does accept donations, naloxone is provided free of charge. The organization also offers community training and overdose prevention consulting across much of the state, in addition to a mail-based syringe access program.

At-Large Councilor Raegan LaRochelle said people, including those who have friends or loved ones they know are using drugs, can get naloxone from Maine Access Points and other sources in Maine, confidentially and easily.

“It’s peace of mind,” said LaRochelle, co-chairwoman of the city’s Substance Use Disorder Taskforce. “Even if you never use it.”

Chelsea Putnam, program director of Maine Access Points in Aroostook County, said people who have naloxone with them could save the life of someone close to them, or someone they may not even know.

She said Mainers can get naloxone in case they ever need it “even if you don’t know anybody who does drugs.”

“You could be at a convenience store (where someone is having an overdose) and be the only person that has it,” Putnam said.

Naloxone can allow someone having trouble breathing or not breathing at all due to an opioid overdose to be able to breathe again.

The training included how to check for responsiveness, stressed the importance of calling 911, rescue breathing to restart someone’s breathing and how to administer Narcan doses.

“You’re the person breathing for that person until the naloxone kicks in or the paramedics arrive,” Putnam said.

She said naloxone has no effect on someone who does not have opioids in their system, is not addictive and should not harm anyone —  even a child — who takes it accidentally, unless that person has an allergic reaction to it, which she said was very rare. It should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

Putnam described steps drug users can take to minimize risks, such as not using alone, not mixing different substances and being especially careful if their tolerance to opioids is down, such as after a stay in jail or treatment.

She said they don’t want people to do drugs, but if they do, they want them to do so as safely as possible.

The medication kits, which also included test strips that can be used to test the strength of fentanyl to help someone using that highly dangerous drug avoid an overdose, were provided by Jasmine Daniels. She is a licensed behavioral health clinician who works in a state-funded program in which she responds to reports of drug overdoses or incidents in the area involving people with substance use disorder to assist the people involved in finding help. The kits were provided by her through the state’s OPTIONS initiative, a state program introduced last year to help drug addicts get help.

Eric Conrad, director of communication and educational services for Maine Municipal Association, said officials there had not heard of any other elected officials in Maine being provided with naloxone or training on how to administer it.

The city did the training as part of the efforts of its Substance Use Disorder Taskforce to reduce drug overdose deaths.

In 2020, Maine had its most drug overdose deaths on record, with 502 deaths, surpassing the previous high of 417  in 2017.

Monthly overdose deaths in 2020 ranged from a low of 33 to a high of 53.

The trend so far in 2021 indicates drug overdoses remain a significant problem. In January, there were 54 overdose deaths reported. There were 45 confirmed or suspected drug overdose deaths in February 2021, the most recently released data from the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid, was the most frequent cause of death in February. Deaths were reported in all but two of Maine’s 16 counties.

In December, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported 81,000 drug overdose deaths from June 2019 through May 2020, the largest number ever recorded in the country during a 12-month period.

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