Pennsylvania continues to have more than double the rate of opioid deaths compared to the national average, a crisis being addressed with a controversial program to hand out the drug that counteracts opioids for free.
Governor Tom Wolf’s administration understands just how hard the opioid crisis has hit Pennsylvania. And, here in Erie, it’s a fact of life affecting nearly everyone.
Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Michael Quggle says, “It’s really wide-spread. It could happen to anyone. Anyone can get addicted to opiods. Anyone can suffer from this disease of addiction.”
That fact is obvious looking at the wide range of people lined up to receive free Naloxone at the Blasco Library. This is just one of 80 sites involved in this statewide distribution.
Naloxone, more commonly known by its brand name Narcan, blocks the body’s opium uptake, reversing an overdose as it occurs. It has become a vital took for many responders. But, now there’s a push to get it into the hands of anyone who may find themselves in a situation where they could save a life.
Quggle says, “The whole week is kind of a Naloxone awareness week. And we’re trying to prevent as many overdose deaths as possible. So, they picked this day to distribute statewide with over 5,000 kits going out.”
One woman tells us that she’s here to get the life-saving after a situation where she couldn’t save a life. Norma Newman says, “A couple months ago I was driving home from work and I saw two bodies laying in the grass.” As a certified nursing assistant, Newman stopped to see if she could assist the pair. She says, “I did not know the circumstances until the police got these. Had I had Narcan, the one gentleman probably would have lived.”
After learning such a painful lesson, Newman says she plans to keep the medication on her at all times, despite the stigma.
“We don’t know what they’re going through, what their life is. but somebody needs to be there to help them.”