Kane County official: Naloxone alone won't stop opioid epidemic

  • Kane County Public Health Executive Director Barb Jeffers, here with county board member Mark Davoust, said using naloxone is not a cure to the opioid epidemic.

    Kane County Public Health Executive Director Barb Jeffers, here with county board member Mark Davoust, said using naloxone is not a cure to the opioid epidemic. Daily Herald File Photo, 2015

 
 
Updated 1/17/2018 5:10 PM

The latest numbers show Kane County's first responders tried to save people overdosing on heroin and opioids more than 100 times in the last three years.

Despite the success of bringing people back from the edge of death, public health officials say the reversal drugs will not fix the local opioid epidemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The county began training local law enforcement agencies, social service providers and libraries how to use naloxone in 2014. Since then 108 people have been administered the drug, more commonly known by the brand name Narcan.

Of those, 96 people were revived. Twelve died either because they received Narcan too late or because their overdose resulted from a mix of drugs.

All told, the county has distributed more than 6,000 doses of Narcan and conducted 262 trainings with various agencies.

Opioid overdose deaths in the county hit a record high in 2017 despite all those efforts. That's why this year the public health department will focus on more drug education, according to Barb Jeffers, executive director of the department.

"It can't just be, 'Oh, here's some Narcan,' because we're seeing an increasing need to save people from overdoses," Jeffers said. "So that tells us something is going on. And education is the next step.

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"We want to give family members and others an opportunity when, at some point, a person hits rock bottom. We want them to be able to go online and find a treatment center or a community provider. We know Narcan is not a cure-all, but it's one death prevented. And maybe that's the day where that person says, 'I need to get some help.' We need to be able to put education behind that."

As opioid reversal drugs become more readily available for over-the-counter purchases at local pharmacies, the education must reach parents who buy Narcan thinking it will ease all their fears about their kids taking drugs.

"Those parents still have to worry," Jeffers said.

"Giving someone Narcan is not curing them. We really need to work on helping them get into treatment."

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