ELIZABETHTOWN — Thousands of people around the world on Friday commemorated International Overdose Awareness Day, a day set aside to recognize the tens of thousands of people who have been saved from drug overdose and to honor those who have lost their lives in the grip of addiction.
Eastpointe hosted a gathering on the lawn of the Bladen County courthouse. Under cloudy skies, five pairs of shoes — for each of the five people in the county who died from overdose in 2015, the last date for which data is available — sat on the courthouse sidewalk in a circle. Guests gathered in a circle around the shoes and prayed for God’s intervention in the opioid epidemic.
“It’s important for us to be here to shed light on the problem and bring awareness to what’s happening in the county,” Eastpointe’s Cheryl Harris said.
Heather Ellis, with Bladen County Emergency Medical Services, demonstrated for guests how Narcan is used and talked about its benefits. Narcan, a brand name, contains naloxone, an overdose-reversing nasal spary
“I’ve personally seen in Bladen County this year between three and five people in cardiac arrest who, when they were given Narcan, recovered initially,” she said. “The response has been very good.”
According to Ellis, Bladen County is now a Narcan-friendly county, with sheriff’s deputies, as well as officers from municipalities, carrying the opiate antagonist. The Bladenboro Police Department was the first agency to carry it.
Richard Berg, behavioral health patient care coordinator for Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear, praised local law enforcement agencies, as well as efforts such as the one Friday afternoon.
“What we’re doing here is saving lives,” he said. “Bladen County is far above what is being done by its neighbors.”
The drug, in nasal form, is available for purchase at local drug stores, meaning anyone concerned about drug overdose for themselves or a loved one can have it on hand.
“You can go to a pharmacy and request this, and you don’t need a standing prescription,” Burn told guests, “or you can contact the North Carolina Harm Coalition and they’ll send you one for free.”
Since 2013, North Carolina has had a Good Samaritan law on the books protecting people who take efforts, like administering naloxone, to save the lives of others. A person who has overdosed, Ellis said, should be turned on his or her side, propped up with a pillow to maintain the position, and administered naloxone.
Five pairs of shoes formed a circle on the sidewalk in front of the Bladen County Courthouse to honor the five people in the county who died as a result of opioids in 2015.
Heather Ellis, with Bladen County Emergency Medical Services, showed guests at the Overdose Awareness Day event a sample of the naloxone spray used by emergency personnel for opioid overdose reversal.
Richard Berg, with Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear, showed guests how opioid antagonists like naloxone work in people who have overdosed.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.