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Lynnfield hopes free Narcan kits will save lives

Board of Health Director Coral Hope displays the contents of a Narcan kit Wednesday. (Anne Marie Tobin)

LYNNFIELD — The town has launched a program it hopes will save the lives of people who have overdosed on opioids.

Town Administrator Rob Dolan said the town has been approved to participate in the state’s Community Naloxone Purchasing Program to provide free Narcan kits to anyone requesting them. 

Lynnfield Health Director Coral Hope said 120 kits were delivered to the Health Department at Town Hall Wednesday. The kits are available to residents and non-residents alike who need only complete an anonymous form, which Hope said is “short and very easy to fill out.”

Hope said applicants will be trained on how to use the kit, a process she said only takes a few minutes. Applicants must state a reason why the kit is needed.

“The kits are available for anybody who uses, for anybody who knows someone, like a friend or family member, who they believe is at risk,” Hope said. “A teacher who just wants to have it in case; a restaurant owner who has seen problems — anyone is eligible to get a kit and you don’t have to be from Lynnfield. The bottom line is any reason is a good reason.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website, naloxone, a generic drug most commonly know by the brand name Narcan, reverses opioid overdoses and can quickly restore normal breathing to someone whose breathing has slowed or stopped because of an opioid overdose. NIDA’s website advises that “families with loved ones who struggle with opioid addiction should have naloxone nearby; ask their family member to carry it; and let friends know where it is.”

A Healthy Lynnfield (AHL) Substance Use Prevention Coordinator Peg Sallade said AHL applauds the health department for “bringing free naloxone to the public.”

“It is something we have discussed as part of a comprehensive community prevention plan,” Sallade said. “80 percent of all overdoses occur in a home. If you know someone at risk, it just makes good sense. It saves lives. Free distribution makes it easier for people to access and breaks down potential perceived barriers. Thank you to Coral Hope and her team for taking action on this.”

Hope said the kit is distributed in a plain brown paper bag to ensure privacy. The kit includes fentanyl test strips, instructions on how to use them, and two doses of Narcan nasal spray.

“If one dose doesn’t work, you have a backup,” Hope said. “Or, if you have to use it on more than one occasion, you have that second dose. The instructions tell you how to use it and you also have the test strips because people usually want to make sure it’s safe before they use it. It only works if you have opioids in your system, but there is no adverse effect if you do not.”

Toni Rebelo, nurse coordinator for Lynnfield Public Schools, said the district has had Narcan in the schools for approximately two years.

“Staff members and nurses have been trained so this is not new to us,” she said. “We have this in the schools just in case of an overdose, so we are always prepared.”

Rebelo compared Narcan to an EpiPen, saying they can both save lives.

“Whenever a person is in doubt, we say, give the dose because it won’t hurt you; there are no negative risks and it can only help,” said Rebelo. “It’s the old better-safe-than-sorry situation. If you’re not sure, give the dose, as this is a lifesaving medication. The important thing is if it really is an overdose, it gives you time before medical attention arrives. Anyone can give it as there isn’t really a lot of training that is needed. It’s easy to use.”

Rebelo emphasized that Narcan’s effect is temporary.

“It can wear off and the effects of the overdose can come back,” Rebelo said. “The way it works is it binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, and the naloxone interferes with that and takes off the receptors. Once it wears off, it is super important to get further assistance. You still need to call 911 right away the minute an overdose is suspected.”

Hope said that while there are a few more details that need to be worked out, as of Wednesday, her office was prepared to distribute the kits on demand to anyone who walks into her office and asks for them. 

“If you walk into this office today, you will be able to get a kit on an anonymous basis within, I’d say, no more than five minutes or so,” Hope said. “We’re still putting the kits together, but they are available to anyone who wants them right away.”

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