Naloxone Giveaway Day

Allison Herens, with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, said she started carrying Narcan when she was hired to be the city’s first harm-reduction coordinator. She attended a training on how to use it, then picked it up from a pharmacy. The next day, while riding SEPTA, she said she saw a man overdosing and administered the Narcan, saving his life.

“What most people don’t know about that story is I only actually had the medication because I went to a second pharmacy the day I went to get it,” said Herens. “The first pharmacy not only gave me pushback about using my insurance, but didn’t have it in stock.”

By Nina Feldman

In Philadelphia and in Delaware County and across the state public health workers are busy getting Naloxone into people’s hands for free.

The medication can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if given in time.

Meg Carter of the Philadelphia Health Department said, “The more people that carry Naloxone and understand what it does and why it is important and can help.”

By John Rawlins

Meg Carter has this to say about why she believes it changes and saves lives.

“If a person’s overdosing, you don’t know what part of their journey they’re in. So they may not be ready for treatment yet but maybe tomorrow they will be. So if you are saving a person’s life and tomorrow they are ready to enter treatment, any life saved is a life saved,” Carter says.

By staff

At the Walgreens in the shadow of the SEPTA El stop at Kensington and Allegheny Avenues, the city Health Department’s harm reduction coordinator, Allison Herens, recalled the day after she decided to start carrying Naloxone, she was put to the test.

While taking SEPTA, she saw a man across the platform was overdosing.

“Using training I had literally just gotten, and the Naloxone in my bag, I was able to save his life,” she explained.

By Steve Tawa

Air Pollution Hearing

The air in Philadelphia is better than it was 25 years ago, according to Health Commissioner Tom Farley. He testified that from having “Severe non-attainment” of EPA standards on polluting chemicals, it now complies with all except for Ozone, where it still falls short of the standard.

“This progress has happened even as the national standards for attainment have become more stringent,” he said.

By Pat Loeb

Council Hearings on Tobacco Retailer Regulations

Health Commissioner Tom Farley will oppose the bill. He doesn’t buy the rationale.
“There was a Wawa that opened up that was above the cap, and so they didn’t get a permit. And I went and visited it and the store was absolutely thriving,” he said. “It was packed with customers and (had) a long line at the cash registers, so these stores can do quite well without selling the No. 1 cause of death in Philadelphia.”
Farley noted that cigarette sales total only a fraction of the business of stores with permits, and the bill would have a hugely negative health impact, especially in low-income neighborhoods where the density of cigarette sales is highest.

By Pat Loeb

On Wednesday, Council voted against a bill that aimed to reverse some of those regulations. The measure would have allowed a tobacco retail permit to be transferred to a new owner even if a store was near a school or exceeded the cap on the number of retailers in the area.

“We’re grateful that the City Council supported the Board of Health’s action to protect Philadelphia’s children from the marketing of the nation’s biggest killer, tobacco,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

The goal of the original regulations was to curb youth smoking, a particularly big problem for Philadelphia, where more than a quarter of youths use tobacco. Although rates of cigarette smoking have dropped here as in much of the country, rates of cigar and e-cigarette use are climbing.

By Aneri Pattani

On the other side were numerous health organizations, parents and Health Commissioner Tom Farley, who said the rule is already working to reduce the number of cigarette retailers in low-income neighborhoods, where there are three times as many tobacco sellers as in other neighborhoods.
“Researchers have shown that children living in neighborhoods with more tobacco sellers are significantly more likely to start smoking, and adult smokers in those neighborhoods are less likely to quit,” Farley said.

By Pat Loeb

Racial Differences in Smoking in Philadelphia

Research shows that people of lower income are more likely to live in neighborhoods with high rates of tobacco retailers. In Philadelphia, which has the highest rate of adult smokersamong the nation’s 10 largest cities, almost half of all tobacco retailers are located in low-income communities, according to the city Department of Public Health.

By Aneri Pattani

Editorial on Pending Council Bills about Opioids

The success of these efforts will depend on the enforcement of these regulations, which would fall to the Department of Public Health.
The impact of these bills will probably not be huge; in fact, both bills are rather innovative and so far untested. But when people are dying daily, Council should signal it’s taking it seriously by exploring other legislative solutions on such issues as expanding access to treatment and regulation of recovery houses.  Enacting these two bills would be a first step.

By Inquirer Editorial Board

2018 2nd Quarter Overdose Deaths

Overdose deaths between April and June rose by about 11 percent compared with the previous two quarters.
“This still represents a kind of leveling-off in opioid-related fatalities over the last three quarters,” said Kendra Viner, manager of the Philadelphia Health Department’s opioid surveillance program. “The bad news is that we’re not seeing the decline in fatalities we’d really like to see. And if this trend continues, we’ll probably end 2018 with maybe just under the total number of fatalities that we saw in 2017.”

By Aubrey Whelan

Pharmacies Not Stocking Naloxone

“We’re trying to make carrying Narcan, unfortunately, just a normal part of what people do,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told me. He said the department still fields complaints from customers who can’t find it on the shelves of pharmacies.

By Mike Newall