You never know when you will have an opportunity to save a life.”
That sentiment, says Janet Dosseva, Director of Westbrook Partners for Prevention in Westbrook, Maine, is the guiding force behind the nonprofit coalitions’ new program that has made naloxone (Narcan) available in many of the the city’s public buildings, including the public library, high school and City Hall, along with training staff members in how to administer it.
Westbrook Partners for Prevention is a network of educators, parents, students, health professionals, law enforcement, and other interested community members working together to support Westbrook youth, ages 12-20, in making healthy, substance-free choices.
Dosseva cites growing concerns around fentanyl use and accidental exposures in making it an even greater priority to face the opioid addiction crisis head on through increased education and easier access to harm reduction resources like naloxone. Also known by its brand name Narcan, the drug is used to reverse opioid overdoses.
“Getting Narcan into more public places and knowing when someone needs help and having people who know how to administer it…we need this in place right now,” Dosseva confirms.
Previously, Westbrook Partners for Prevention worked to install sharps boxes in public buildings. Providing naloxone in these same locations was a next logical step to acknowledge the potential for emergencies and emphasize the importance of timely intervention. Libraries, schools, churches and other public spaces are often easily accessible to individuals from diverse backgrounds, making them ideal locations to distribute Narcan.
Getting the program up and running has become a true community effort.
“We do Narcan training so that staff in the building know how and when to respond to a community member in crisis. The response has been incredibly positive. People want to be part of the solution,” Dosseva confirms. Westbrook Partners for Prevention also distributes easy to carry cards that contain information about how to recognize and respond to signs that someone has overdosed.
By equipping public buildings with Narcan and putting the focus on education, everyday citizens have the ability to intervene and potentially save lives, transforming public buildings into vital hubs for community health and safety.
And that’s the whole point, says Dosseva.
“So much of public health is tearing down barriers,” Dosseva describes, “This is what we’re doing…we’re chipping away to bring more access to life saving resources and lessening stigma around it.”
“This is how communities become healthier,” she adds.