“It is worth warning people at nightclubs who might use cocaine recreationally about the possibility of fentanyl contamination,” opioids program manager Kendra Viner of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health told BuzzFeed News. But overall, only about 2% of seized cocaine vials in Philadelphia are contaminated by fentanyl.
Per department spokesperson James Garrow, last year’s distribution efforts ramped up considerably. More than 26,500 doses of naloxone were distributed among first responders, law enforcement agencies, the city’s jail system, and community organizations. By the end of last year, that circulation had nearly doubled to more than 47,700 doses doled out citywide.
Guidelines such as those written by the CDC and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health hope to reduce the availability of prescription opioids as one solution to combat the epidemic. Instead of opioid medication for pain management, these guidelines recommend that providers offer non-pharmacological treatment such as physical and behavioral therapies. Unfortunately, most people cannot access these treatments or are unaware how they can help — both concerns that likely contributed to the opioid crisis in the first place.
Even before the year is officially over, health officials are declaring 2018 to be a landmark in Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, marking the first time in at least five years that overdose deaths will have declined. More people sought treatment. More doses of Narcan, the lifesaving overdose reversal spray, were handed out in the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.
In short, “all the key numbers are moving in the right direction,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last week.
PHILADELPHIA — This morning, Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, flanked by surgeons from three of the major health systems in Philadelphia, announced the release of new, voluntary guidelines for surgeons to use when deciding if, and how many, opioids will be prescribed after a successful surgery. These guidelines are the first in the country that were built using evidence of actual use.
The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. The guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.
Philadelphia is the first city to take on the task. Health Commissioner Tom Farley says other efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions have paid off, but still a survey showed they’re at historically high levels.
The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. KYW Newsradio’s City Hall bureau chief Pat Loeb reports the guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.
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.”
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.
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.
The Philadelphia Department of Health says 75 percent of Philadelphia’s estimated 400 pharmacies already carry Narcan. Only 100 don’t.
CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens all carry it, I’m told by Health Department spokesperson Jim Garrow, and they are everywhere.
What’s more, since June 2017, the Health Department has handed out 57,000 doses, free of charge.
That’s free to the user. The city pays $75 for a two-dose kit and distributes it to first responders, says Garrow, “and community organizations that have regular contact with the population that needs this medication.” So Henon’s bill isn’t necessary, because anyone who wants Narcan can easily get it.