‘Save a Life Day’ Hopes to Stop Overdoses As Soon As They Start
Last week marked International Overdose Awareness Day as a time to remember those who lost their life due to an addiction. But organizers throughout West Virginia are taking a proactive approach this Wednesday for Save a Life Day.
Saving lives means giving people tools to counteract a drug overdose. Last year was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths. More than 1,200 people in the state died in 2020.
Still, many more West Virginians will survive an overdose, oftentimes thanks to Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal treatment. It can restore a person’s breathing and consciousness.
Organizers hope to distribute 8,000 doses of Naloxone at dozens of locations Wednesday.
“People can just drive up and we'll come to your car. We'll go over how to recognize an overdose and cover all the required training information,” said Carrie Ware, who organized Huntington’s Save a Life Day.
Ware hands out Naloxone regularly through her church, St. Peter's Episcopal. Volunteers there go to shelters, community centers and out on the street to distribute the life-saving medication.
But Wednesday, Ware and others in Huntington will set up nine distribution sites in one day.
“I'm hoping to get it in the hands of people that we typically don't see, because we're usually on the streets handing it out to a different population,” Ware said. “So I'm hoping to get it in the hands of like your average person walking downtown Huntington to go to dinner.”
Emergency responders can save lives by carrying and administering this treatment, but so can anyone.
Someone is more likely to survive an overdose if a friend or bystander administers Naloxone before EMS arrives, said Laura Jones, executive director of the Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown, which also runs a harm reduction program.
“Those minutes that you're waiting for EMS are crucially important,” Jones said. “The outcome can mean the difference between life and death.”
In these cases, 94 percent of the time the person who is overdosing is able to be transported to a medical facility and treated, according to state data from 2019.
Jones said responding quickly can also prevent potential brain damage that can occur when someone stops breathing.
The state Office of Drug Control Policy, health providers and grassroots groups donated the Naloxone kits for distribution. More details on locations and organizers is online.
This year is the 50th anniversary since the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication.