Eagle County gets a boost from the state in the fight against drug overdoses
The state is providing Eagle County with Narcan, fentanyl test strips
This story has been corrected. Narcan is available only at the Eagle County Paramedic Services office in Edwards.
Local efforts to cut down on opioid overdoses got a boost recently.
Eagle County and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently signed an agreement to send supplies of a couple of key weapons in the battle against fentanyl and other opioid overdoses.
One of those weapons is a supply of fentanyl test strips, small strips of paper that can detect the presence of that drug in pills, powders and injectables.
The county is also receiving more supplies of Naxalone, otherwise known as Narcan. That drug can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
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The job now is to get those items into the hands of those who need them. Eagle County director of public health Heath Harmon said his department is still working to coordinate how to distribute the items to organizations that can put them where they’re most needed.
Maggie Seldeen is the founder and director of Rocky Mountain Harm Reduction. That Garfield County-based group operates in five counties, including Eagle County. The nonprofit works to get protective items into the hands of those who need them. The inventory includes supplies of Narcan and test strips, as well as sterile use equipment for “snorting, smoking and injecting.” The organization also provides support for those who use drugs, and those seeking help with recovery. Referrals to health care, legal aid and housing resources are also available.
In an email, Seldeen wrote that working with public health agencies “allows our organization to have more capacity to dedicate to community education and direct services.”
Seldeen wrote that “every American medicine cabinet should have Narcan. You never know when you may witness an opioid overdose in the home or community … If you want to be prepared to save a life, you should always carry Narcan.” And, she added, anyone who uses recreational drugs should be in the habit of testing those drugs for the presence of fentanyl.
But, she added, Narcan is still essential, even for those who test their drugs.
Seldeen’s email noted that Colorado law allows anyone to carry, distribute and administer Narcan. The same legal immunity also applies to test strips. The law also provides immunity from prosecution from those who report, or suffer from, overdoses.
Harmon noted that Rocky Mountain Harm Reduction has “a lot of trust and credibility in the community.” Eagle County Paramedic Services is also a trusted partner.
Paramedic district director Brandon Daruna said anyone can come to the district’s Edwards facility to pick up Narcan. The person gets a paper bag with two nasal doses.
“We want the community to feel comfortable with calling us,” Daruna said.
While Narcan is literally a life-saver, Daruna stressed that anyone who administers Narcan to an overdose victim should also immediately call 911.
That means both an ambulance and police officers are on the way. But, Daruna added, state law provides immunity from prosecution for both those who call and those who have overdosed. The exception, he said, is if it’s obvious there’s drug distribution going on.
The important thing, Harmon said, is being prepared.
“Any resources we can make available to the community needs to occur in advance of an overdose,” Harmon said.