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Santa Barbara County Seeking Grant To Buy Opioid Overdose Antidote

Grant application to be used as framework for creating policies and procedures for locally launched program

Santa Barbara County will apply for a grant to purchase and distribute several naloxone kits so the opioid antidote can be administered to overdose victimes. Naloxone can be administered via needle or nasal spray, like the one pictured above.
Santa Barbara County will apply for a grant to purchase and distribute several naloxone kits so the opioid antidote can be administered to overdose victimes. Naloxone can be administered via needle or nasal spray, like the one pictured above. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County will apply for a grant to help buy antidote kits to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses, but will launch what one official says is an urgently needed local program even if it doesn’t win the funding.

The county intends to apply by the Oct. 11 deadline for one of 10 grants, at $60,000 apiece, being awarded by the California HealthCare Foundation for regional opioid safety coalitions.

Yet, with Santa Barbara County reportedly 46th of counties in need among the 58 in California, according to one ranking, John Doyel, county Alcohol and Drug Program manager, isn’t hopeful at the chance of securing some of the funding.

He said he will contest numbers used for the ranking on opioid deaths.

Doyel said he intends to use the grant application as the foundation for creating policies and procedures for a local program including purchasing and distributing naloxone, an opioid antidote for someone who has overdosed on certain illegal or prescription narcotics such as heroin or morphine. 

"Even if we don’t get the funding, we’ve got to act,” Doyel said. 

The foundation grant calls for a three-pronged approach: support safe prescribing practices, expand access to medication-assisted addiction treatment, and increase access to naloxone,

“The community’s crying out for this. There’s a need,” Doyel said. 

Doyel added he wants to buy some kits to supply law enforcement officers, addicts, family members and shelters with antidote kits as one step in the battle to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths.

“We want to target the people who are most likely to witness an overdose,” Doyel said. 

Take-home programs have been established in hundreds of communities across the United States, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition.

“I’m going to have to buy some of this immediately. We can’t wait,” Doyel said.

Naloxone, sometimes called Narcan, is considered an “opioid antagonist,” and is used to counter the effect of an overdose from morphine, heroin or other opioids, according to the coalition. The drug counteracts the life-threatening depression of the central nervous and respiratory systems.

It can be administered several ways to reverse an overdose, either into the muscle, vein and under the skin via syringe, or through intranasal methods by being sprayed into the nose. 

Naloxone is not a drug of abuse since it simply reverses the effects of opioids. Additionally, the antidote can be administered to an unconscious person if an opioid overdose is suspected, but not certain.

The county last month took one step by contracting with LA Community Health Project to put on a”train the trainers” workshop in overdose prevention, recognition and response, including administering naloxone. 

After researching options, Doyel is looking to acquire the intranasal kits — at prices ranging from about $82 to $102 per dose —since they require less training and still can be delivered to a person who is unconscious.

The need exists locally. In the first three quarters of 2014, 45 people died from overdoses. Most of those involved opioid-related accidental overdoses, Doyel said.

In June, the three people died due to heroin overdoses a few days apart in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

A decade ago, 8 to 10 percent of people in treatment reported heroin or prescription painkillers as the drug of choice. Recent statistics put that number at 30 percent, he said.

“Sadly, Santa Barbara County is reflecting national trends,” Doyel said. 

In March, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced an initiative aimed at reducing prescription opioid and heroin-related overdose, death and dependence. 

Federal officials noted deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily over the past two decades and currently outnumber deaths from car accidents in the United States.

“Opioid drug abuse is a devastating epidemic facing our nation,” Burwell said, noting she has seen the crisis firsthand in her home state of West Virginia. 

“That’s why I’m taking a targeted approach to tackling this issue focused on prevention, treatment and intervention. I also know we can’t do this alone. We need all stakeholders to come together to fight the opioid epidemic,” she added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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