Addiction team goes into community with Narcan kits, education

NARCANTo combat rising drug overdose rates and declining numbers of people seeking help for alcohol and drug addiction in April 2020, volunteer physicians, nurses and pharmacists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center went out into the community to distribute Narcan (naloxone) kits and share addiction information with Columbus, Ohio, residents. 

They joined forces with other community stakeholders in conducting “Narcan pop-ups”—impromptu community outreach visits to food banks, grocery stores, gas stations and other places people were likely to visit during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort was an outgrowth of Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone), a network of Ohio-based drug overdose education and naloxone distribution programs. These programs provide take-home naloxone kits to the public free of charge, funded by the Ohio Department of Health. Since joining Project DAWN more than a year ago, the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has been firmly invested in the community-wide project.  

From November 2019 through September 2020, the medical center distributed 1,759 Narcan kits. Of those, 825 were given out during community outreach events, and others were distributed to medical center patients at high risk of overdose. Partners in these outreach efforts included the Columbus Public Health Department, the Columbus Fire Department RREACT (Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team) Division, Southeast RREACT, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the Franklin County Health Department. 

“The Narcan pop-ups got us out of our comfort zone and into the community. They gave us face-to-face—or mask-to-mask—time with people we wouldn’t typically come in contact with,” says Julie Teater, MD, medical director of Addiction Medicine for the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. 

Community outreach provides learning for all

Dr. Teater notes that as a result of going into the community, she and her staff have built relationships with other organizations and have a better understanding of where to send people for addiction help outside of the hospital. They also met people with substance use issues who were not yet ready to come for alcohol and drug treatment at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Talbot Hall. Some of the people from those encounters have since come in for treatment. 

For people who said they don’t use drugs or need a Narcan kit, the interactions provided a chance for community education. 

“We wanted to reduce the stigma around addiction and also convince people that they may come across someone who is in need of help,” Dr. Teater says. 

For more information, call 614-257-3896 or 614-257-3760.

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