Emergency department personnel reversed five potential drug overdoses with Narcan during August, Heidi Boitnott, unit director of the emergency department at UPMC Northwest, said at the task force meeting. In one case, a family member administered the lifesaving drug to a patient who had used heroin and cocaine, Boitnott said. All emergency department staff are trained to use Narcan and the families of loved ones who overdose leave the hospital with a Narcan rescue kit and instructions. “I was very excited to see one of those rescue kits was used by family,” Boitnott said. “The kits are being used. It really is a good thing,” she added. Narcan (generic name naloxone) is available to anyone without a prescription. Vouchers for the reversal drug will be available at a table during the upcoming Recovery Celebration in Franklin. That event, to be held in conjunction with Recovery Month, is planned from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday in Bandstand Park in Franklin.
Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is live and it represents a powerful new tool for pharmacists to use in the fight against drug fraud and abuse, said Judy, who heads up a pharmacist subcommittee to the drug task force. All pharmacists may register in the PDMP and it allows them to track the prescriptions that a patient has filled and the number of prescribers along with a wealth of other crucial data, he said. “All of the tools are there in place to really enhance what we’re able to do in the pharmacy setting,” Judy said. The majority of pharmacists in Venango County know their patients and enjoy a good rapport with them, Judy said. In recent weeks, he reported only one incident of potential abuse. “Those encounters are fewer and fewer,” he said. The task force’s pharmacist subcommittee – called the VIPs – is gaining more members and is looking to other states for best practice guidelines that will make them better providers, Judy said. The state of Maine, for example, has passed a law that limits the amount of opioid drugs that may be prescribed to a patient, he said. Concerns about yet another class of drugs – the benzodiazepines – are also on pharmacists’ radar, Judy added. Recent guidelines say that these drugs, which are sold under the brand names Valium, Klonopin, Xanax and others, should not be prescribed with opioid drugs but they frequently are, the pharmacist said.
The county has received an increasing number of calls from local teachers who want guidance on dealing with students who have drug and alcohol issues in their homes, said Marie Plumer, the task force chair. In June, the task force received a visit from two teachers who said that students often turn to their teachers for support but that educators are not trained to deal with those issues. “I know the teachers are still concerned,” Plumer said, and the group discussed several ways to step up its outreach to them. State Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21st) attended Friday’s meeting and took a moment to thank the task force for their work. “Thank you for all you do,” Hutchinson said. “You’re going above and beyond and I appreciate that as a community member,” he said. The next meeting of the drug overdose task force is planned for 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Human Services complex in Franklin.
Anyone who wants more information about substance abuse programs in the county can call Plumer at 432-9163. Anyone who needs immediate help can call 432-9111.