Dozens Attend Fitchburg Health Department Narcan and Overdose Prevention Community Training

FITCHBURG – A community training session on Narcan and overdose prevention sponsored by the Department of Health, held March 24 at the Legislative Building on Main Street, drew more than two dozen participants, the first training in person since COVID-19 hit two years ago.

Fitchburg Public Health Director Stephen Curry addresses the crowd gathered March 24 for community training on Narcan and overdose prevention sponsored by the city’s health department at the Legislative Building on St. Hand. (COURTESY OF FITCHBURG HEALTH DEPARTMENT)

Narcan was distributed to all attendees, and local treatment providers from the Fitchburg Interagency Team set up resource tables in the lobby.

Public Health Director Stephen Curry welcomed the public and acknowledged local agencies before thanking City of Fitchburg Substance Abuse Coordinator Sue Christensen for hosting the event and introducing Kimberly French and Keith Barnaby, who are both contracted to perform street outreach services for the city.

Barnaby, who is also a harm reduction specialist and certified recovery coach, led the Narcan training. After a brief overview of his background and work, Barnaby spoke about harm reduction, describing it as “an approach designed to reduce the harmful consequences of high-risk behaviors.”

He said the street outreach team approaches harm reduction in a “non-judgmental, compassionate and empathetic way” with the goal of keeping a person alive “until we find the pathway that will work for she”.

“Anyone can recover but if we lose them to an overdose there is no chance of recovery,” he said.

Some harm reduction strategies described by Barnaby included “always have Narcan, never use it alone, and assume that all illicit drugs contain fentanyl”, and his presentation focused on different types of drugs, the factors of risk and tolerance.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “an opioid/opiate overdose is defined as a person who is unresponsive and has reduced or stopped breathing.”

Participants learned how to react to an overdose and what to do in the event of an overdose and after a reminder to always call 911, Narcan administration and artificial respiration techniques were covered.

Overdose to Action Street Outreach Team Outreach Team member Keith Barnaby delivered the training at the Fitchburg Health Department, sponsored by Narcan and Community Overdose Prevention Training, held March 24 at the Legislative Building on Main Street. (COURTESY OF FITCHBURG HEALTH DEPARTMENT)

Information about the Good Samaritan Law was shared during the training. The law grants immunity from arrest and prosecution for drug possession to people who, in good faith, seek medical assistance for themselves or other victims of a drug-related overdose.

Exceptions to this law were also discussed – people are not immune from arrest and prosecution for active warrants, possession of a large amount of drugs, or possession with intent to distribute.

One of the questions posed by the audience at the end of the training was “How can we get Narcan?” »

Barnaby said there is a standing order at all pharmacies in Massachusetts for anyone to access Narcan, although copays may be required. In the city, the Restoration Recovery Center has Narcan available at its 40 Fairmount St. location and Narcan can also be reached via Street Outreach by calling 978-868-6482 – they will drop it off even if needed.

Attendees were given Narcan to take home and several brought expired Narcan to hand over.

Sandy Knipe, a member of the Fitchburg Board of Health who attended the training, said she “was very impressed with the presentation.”

“Keith Barnaby is a dynamic and talented speaker who is passionate about the work he does with addiction,” Knipe said. “With his assistant Kim, they will accomplish a lot.”

She said the city was “lucky to have Sue Christensen to lead and grow the substance abuse program”, calling it “a vital asset to the Fitchburg Board of Health and the Montachusett Public Health Network”. .

Treatment providers who participated included Restoration Recovery Center, GAAMHA Inc., Fitchburg Comprehensive Treatment Center, Action Community Health Center, Worcester County Sheriff‘s Office Fitchburg Community Justice Support Center, and Overdose to Action or OD2A, a program of grant-funded health department outreach that provided pizza, salad, and water.

The Fitchburg Health Department’s bi-annual Prescription Drug Recovery Day, held in conjunction with the Fitchburg Police Department, will be held April 30 from 10 a.m. to noon at Fitchburg City Hall. The Narcan training was filmed by Fitchburg Access Television and can be viewed on demand at https://bit.ly/3DHc0PD.

“We are so lucky to have FATV here in Fitchburg. They are a great partner to the city, always ready to help us make programs accessible to Fitchburg residents,” said Christensen, adding that there are plans to hold more community trainings throughout the year.

In other Health Department news, a presentation on the Section 35 (involuntary civil recognizance for mental health or addiction treatment) process with Justice Christopher LoConto and Clerk-Magistrate Carole Vittorioso is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 14, at the Legislative Assembly Building at 700 Main Street and the semi-annual Prescription Drug Pickup Day co-hosted with the police department will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 30 at the town hall.

For more information, including upcoming activities, follow the City of Fitchburg Health Board on Facebook.

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