Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day.

We wanted to know what is being done in our own community to combat this growing and deadly epidemic so we spoke with medical experts and emergency crews.

There are several life saving programs and efforts in our communities.

International Overdose Awareness Day is aimed at honoring and remembering those who have lost their lives to the drug overdose epidemic.

“This is so important because last year more Americans than ever before died of an accidental drug overdose, and in Erie County we have seen our numbers go up again,” said Dr. Mandy Fauble, UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Safe Harbor.

She said that there are a number of public health initiatives to help reduce drug overdoses.

“In our local hospitals we have programs called “Warm Handoff” including one that Safe Harbor runs where we partner with the hospitals so that if someone has come in with a drug overdose, we are able to get them plugged into services, particularly evidence-based care that will reduce any future risk of overdose,” said Dr. Fauble.

Dr. Fauble said that one of the keys to fighting overdoses is having access to Naloxone.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, works as a overdose reversal medication. It also can be the difference between life and death.

“Naloxone is something that every family should have in their first aid kit. Every business should have in their first aid kit because this is a big public health program in our community, but it’s something that we can do something about,” said Dr. Fauble.

Crews with EmergyCare said Narcan is paramount in an opioid overdose.

“Those people quit breathing, and obviously in four to six minutes of your brain going without oxygen, your brain dies. So being able to give that person Narcan and get them breathing again within a matter of a couple of minutes is truly a lifesaver,” said Todd Steele, Emergycare Director of Operations.

Steele responds to overdose cases at least once every couple of days.

He said that in years past they would see opioid overdoses in poorer neighborhoods. Now they see overdoses in every neighborhood.

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