On-call peers to assist in drug overdoses

CAMBRIDGE – Drug users who suffer from overdoses will soon have a peer-support system ready to assist them at an hour’s notice. Dorchester County Health Officer Roger Harrell said the local health department is creating a regional group to address drug abuse.
The county has been recognized as a hot spot in the continuing opioid epidemic that has swept the country.

Mr. Harrell introduced to the council members his colleague and drug-abuse specialist Donald Hall. “We propose to do a program of on-call peer support,” Mr. Hall said.

This system, in which a peer would respond to a hospital within an hour when an overdose occurs during non-business hours, would bring help when most overdoses take place. “The idea is to reduce people who are cycling through ERs,” Mr. Hall said.

He also told the council that the health department has worked with the Dorchester County Detention Center to introduce use of the drug Vivitrol. “Vivitrol has been shown to have a 55 percent reduction in people cycling through,” Mr. Hall said.

A statement on the company’s website said, “Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time, helping patients to prevent relapse to opioid dependence, following detox, while they focus on counseling.”

Mr. Hall said as little as three days clean – such as when a person is incarcerated for a short period – can lower an addict’s resistance significantly. This means that when the person is released, he or she can more easily overdose.

That has the drug abuse specialists working to have a seamless move from the detention center to treatment. “Our goal is to have a person on this treatment for 12-18 months,” Mr. Hall said.

The Dorchester County Health Department is located at 3 Cedar St. For information, call 410-228-3223.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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