Allegheny Family Network providing overdose prevention training in Harrison |
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Brian C. Rittmeyer

Rayne Plance has seen first-hand the impact of a heroin overdose — she’s had several siblings struggle with addiction.

It’s part of why Plance, a family support partner with Allegheny Family Network, wanted to bring a training session on how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose to Harrison, where she grew up and the network recently opened a new office.

“I want to allow the community to get knowledge of what it may look like if you see somebody having an overdose and how to treat it,” she said.

Alice Bell, the overdose prevention project coordinator with Prevention Point Pittsburgh, will conduct the training at the network’s office at 1600 Pacific Ave. on March 16. It will start at 4 p.m.

The overdose counteragent naloxone, also known as Narcan, will be available for free for those in need of a supply to take home. Those interested in attending are asked to make a reservation so enough will be available.

Prevention Point has been operating a syringe exchange program since 1995 and has been providing naloxone since 2005.

Naloxone reverses overdoses from any opioid, including heroin, fentanyl and oxycodone. Fentanyl has been the primary cause of overdose deaths in recent years, Bell said.

“Our primary focus is on getting naloxone into the hands of people who use drugs themselves and anyone who lives with someone at risk of an overdose, or has contact with someone at risk of overdose,” Bell said. “Anybody who takes opioids could potentially be at risk. If you live with someone who takes opioids for whatever reason, it’s good to have naloxone.”

Increased availability of naloxone is credited with reducing the number of overdose deaths. Prevention Point gave out more than 4,000 naloxone doses in 2018, and documented more than 500 overdose reversals using the naloxone it had provided.

In 2017, there were 735 overdose-related deaths in Allegheny County, a 12 percent increase from the 655 in 2016. In 2018, there were 379 overdoses, with 91 cases still pending, according to the county Medical Examiner’s office.

“I think it’s a safe to assume that the increase in naloxone availability… has contributed to this decline,” Bell said.

At the training, which is open to anyone, Bell said she will provide information on the scope of the overdose problem, talk about what Prevention Point has done over the years and show people how to use naloxone.

“Not only are you learning about an overdose, but you’re also given the tools in order to treat it,” Plance said. “You don’t have to be an emergency responder to give Narcan.”

Plance said people need to know how to recognize and respond to an overdose “because a lot of the time paramedics can’t always make it in time. If you have Narcan in your home, you can potentially save your child’s life or your parents life.”

People cannot get high off of Naloxone, and it won’t cause any harm if given to someone not experiencing an overdose, Plance said.

Plance addressed the negative stigma often associated with overdoses and the use of Narcan, which critics see as giving addicts license to overdose again.

“Everybody should be given a second chance and a second ability to pursue their life,” she said. “Just because they’re using drugs doesn’t make them any less of a person to have that ability to live.

“It’s a person’s life regardless of what they’re doing,” she said. “We just really want to give the community an opportunity to just learn and educate themselves on addiction and how they can possibly prevent an overdose death.”

Bell said there simply is no response to those who say addicts or those who overdose should be allowed to die.

“I don’t know what to say to someone who doesn’t value human life,” she said. “If it was your sister or your son, you probably wouldn’t say that.”

Those interested in the training but unable to attend the session at Allegheny Family Network can find information on Prevention Point’s website.

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