County taking measures to prevent opioid overdose deaths

Sheriff’s Office and Public Health announce offer of naloxone to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

Naloxone. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

Naloxone. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)

OKANOGAN – The Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office and Public Health department announced today that beginning in November the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone will be offered to individuals upon release from the county jail.

Research indicates that individuals with substance use disorder are at very high risk of fatal opioid overdose following their release from incarceration. Focusing on this population is an important step in decreasing overdose deaths in the county.

“The Sheriff’s Office does not condone the use of illegal drugs. Offering naloxone on release is a public safety measure to reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose in the county,” said Sheriff Tony Hawley.

The distribution will occur through a partnership between the Sheriff’s Office, Family Health Centers (FHC), and COPE, the Community Opioid Overdose Prevention and Education program. FHC is the lead organization in the grant funded Okanogan County Rural Community Opioid Response Project (RCORP) Consortium. The RCORP Consortium is a multi-sector collaborative effort to reduce the impact of substance use disorders in the county. In Okanogan County, RCORP grant dollars fund COPE, the FHC Opioid Treatment Network (OTN), and a Re-Entry Case Management program at Okanogan Behavioral Healthcare (OBHC), among other initiatives. The naloxone kits and information offered to individuals upon release from jail will be provided by the COPE program. Included in the kit are two doses of naloxone medication, instructions and information on local treatment resources. Naloxone is only effective in reversing an overdose when an opioid drug (such as heroin, fentanyl, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and others) is present. It cannot prevent death from an overdose of methamphetamine. From a public health perspective, it is advantageous to increase access to naloxone in the population because:

  1. It is often unclear what type of drug may have been used, and
  2. Illicit methamphetamine is often contaminated with fentanyl, which increases the likelihood of death from opioid overdose.

In these cases, naloxone can be administered as a lifesaving measure and will not cause harm to an individual experiencing an overdose from a non-opioid drug.

Okanogan County Public Health Community Health Director Lauri Jones says that increasing access to this life saving medication is a critically important public health measure to decrease deaths from opioid overdoses in our community. While the ultimate goal is to help opioid-addicted individuals into recovery, the first step is ensuring that they have tools at their disposal to reverse a potentially fatal overdose.