In response to the ongoing opioid epidemic, Camden County will install roughly 275 Naloxboxes containing naloxone, a drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, at more than 150 of its schools during the rest of October.
County commissioners and local officials gathered at Highland Regional High School on Oct. 13 to install the first box, which contains two doses of Narcan nasal spray.
“Today in Camden County, we’re seeing a multitude of cases where teens, preteens and young adults are trying what they think is cocaine or taking what they think is xanax, molly, oxycontin or adderall, and it turns out these drugs also contained fentanyl, an extremely powerful and lethal opioid,” said County Prosecutor Grace MacAulay.
She recalled cases of minors who died of fentanyl overdoses earlier this year, including a 12-year-old boy from Gloucester Township who died merely from its exposure.
“This was an overdose by definition, but this was a poisoning, and we have to get into that mindset,” said township Police Chief David Harkins. “By getting this and getting this administered as quickly as possible, that’s what saves lives. …
“Our job is to make sure that person survives.”
“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine,” MacAulay added. “Just a few grains can literally cause a fatal overdose.”
Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr. cited CDC provisional data that shows roughly 107,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2020, with 75 percent of those deaths linked to pain-relieving opioids. Elia Hopkins, a peer recovery specialist as well and someone in recovery for substance use, expressed the importance of Naloxboxes in schools.
“Our schools now have the tools they need to save lives and this is critically important,” Hopkins said. “Narcan (a brand of naloxone) in schools not only presents the opportunity to educate youth about the danger of drugs sold today, but also about this lifesaving tool and how to use it.
“Our youth need to know what to do if one of their friends or family members overdoses in front of them.”
Cappelli clarified how training is offered and it will be up to school districts to choose who will be trained. County health officer Paschal Nwako emphasized that there is free training on how to administer Narcan online, and explained that to use it, a person presses it into the nose of the individual who has overdosed.
“It’s critical that this is done in conjunction with a call to 911,” said Caryelle Lasher, county health department director. “Narcan doesn’t last as long in the system as these synthetic opioids do, so though the product is effective in immediately restoring consciousness and resuming the breathing of a person in an overdose, it’s really important the person gets continued care so they can monitor throughout the entire episode.
“Depending on how much the person was exposed to, the person has a possibility of going back into respiratory failure.”
The Naloxbox initiative – which costs more than $30,000 – is being paid for by the county Office of Mental Health and Addiction. Naloxone is being provided at no cost through a partnership with the state health department, the county prosecutor’s office and local police chiefs.
To learn more about Camden County’s addiction awareness efforts, visit https://www.camdencounty.com/service/mental-health-and-addiction/.