February 28, 2014
As Chicagoland suburbs continue to combat an onslaught of lethal heroin overdoses, those close to the issue are making a concerted effort to educate area professionals and residents about potential solutions. Earlier this week, Gateway Foundation’s Jim Scarpace joined community leaders in a round-table discussion put together by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster’s office to talk about naloxone, known as the heroin overdose anecdote drug, and how it could be used to fight DuPage County’ overdose epidemic.
A life-saving substance administered by syringe or inhaled, naloxone is an opioid marketed under the brand name Narcan. Panelists unanimously agreed: naloxone saves lives, and it needs to be put into the hands of people positioned to use it for that purpose.
Gateway’s Jim Scarpace explained to participants that naloxone does not create a high and is not addictive. It works to reverse the effects of overdoses on all drugs classified as opioids – this includes heroin and some types of prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin and Percocet.
“Most people aren’t aware of naloxone, and what it can do,” said Jim Scarpace, executive director, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment in Aurora. “However, access is not easily gained by some people.”
But progress is being made here in Illinois. Naloxone is not available in every state; only 17 states (including Illinois) and District of Columbia have passed laws to distribute it. Furthermore, among these states, Illinois is one of 10 that allow for third parties, such as a family member or friend of an intravenous drug user, to be prescribed naloxone.
Other topics discussed include:
- The Good Samaritan Law, which is passed in Illinois, is intended to encourage bystanders to seek medical help for overdose victims. The bystander who calls 911 or seeks medical help will receive immunity from criminal charges for drug possession (except for marijuana). The overdose victim is protected, too.
- Issues about naloxone accessibility and whether it should be an over-the-counter drug.
- Medication available to aid in treating heroin addiction.
Held at the Yellow Box Christian Community Church in Naperville, the round table is one in a series of events organized by Congressman Foster to galvanize community leaders and concerned residents to address the uptick in heroin overdoses. Participating organizations and individuals include: Beacon-News Columnist Denise Crosby; DuPage County Health Department; DuPage Metropolitan Group; Gateway Foundation; Naperville resident Karen Hanneman whose son Justin Tokar died of a heroin overdose in 2011; and Yellow Box Community Christian Church.
Make yourself part of the solution to the heroin epidemic. Create greater awareness to reverse the disconcerting heroin trends impacting our communities. Learn more at RecoveryGateway.org/Heroin.