Gloucester County holds NARCAN session to combat opioid epidemic

The Mullica Hill Branch Library hosted the first of 10 training sessions that teaches residents how to administer the anti-overdose medicine

Jennifer Kicks administers NARCAN in the nose of a training dummy during her demonstration at a county NARCAN training session at Mullica Hill Branch Library on Jan. 8.

The Mullica Hill Branch Library in Harrison Township hosted a NARCAN training session Jan. 8 as part of the county’s effort to battle the opioid epidemic.

The Gloucester County Addictions Task Force began its third year of providing free training sessions throughout the county, to give residents the knowledge needed to prevent an overdose by using NARCAN. Also known as Naloxone, the medication can reverse the effects of an overdose and can be administered by someone with minimal training.  

In recent years, NARCAN was introduced as a way for people to quickly and effectively keep an overdose victim alive before first responders arrive. The medicine comes at a time when cities and communities across the country are implementing new initiatives to battle opioid addiction.  

In Philadelphia, paramedics used 35 percent less NARCAN in 2018 than the year prior, most likely because the overdose medicine has become widespread, according to BillyPenn, a local news organization. The news site also reported that deaths by overdose were down last year, the first decline since Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic became a public health crisis. 

New Jersey saw a 3 percent decrease in suspected overdose deaths statewide in 2019 compared with 2018, according to the governor’s office. For Gloucester County, 2019 was the first year there has been a regression in overdose deaths since the epidemic, according to Freeholder Jim Jefferson. 

“I would say that is in large part (due) to efforts like this, where we’re getting harm reduction medicine out into the community,” said Gloucester County Freeholder Jim Jefferson.

“All that being said, we did lose 138 people here in Gloucester County. So our goal is to work to get that number to zero.”  

Those who attended the session were given information about the effects of opioids both to individuals and the community, treatment options for loved ones and how to properly administer the medicine.

“I have three teenagers, so you never know what they do behind closed doors,” said an  anonymous Logan Township mother, when asked why she attended the meeting. An elderly couple from Sewell were at the session after seeing teenagers use drugs in their summer community. 

“I want to make sure that if we’re there, we can help them,” said one of them, who also asked to remain anonymous. 

The NARCAN session was taught by Jennifer Hicks of Urban Treatments Associate, a Substance Abuse Rehab center in Camden. 

The NARCAN session was the first of 10 that will be held in 2020 throughout the county. Sessions are free, but pre-registration is required, as space is limited to only about 20 people each. Free kits will be available to those who attend.

The next session will be held Feb. 12, at 6 p.m., at Glassboro Public Library, 2 Center St. For future dates and more information, visit www.co.gloucester.nj.us.