Gándara Center and Tapestry Health received a lot of positive feedback about our recent Narcan overdose prevention trainings in Westfield, Ludlow, Palmer, Chicopee, Holyoke, and Springfield. The latter two events were conducted in Spanish to make this crucial information even more accessible to the local Latino community.

Attendees were not only given instructions on how to administer Narcan, a life-saving opioid antagonist, but were also told about how it works, how long it works, what happens to the body during an overdose, who is at risk for an opioid overdose, signs of an overdose, how to support the overdose victim’s breathing, and the emergence the fentanyl-adulterated heroin and its role in the increase of overdoses.

Nellie Maldonado, assistant director for program administration at Tapestry (pictured above at the Westfield Athenaeum on October 18) explained how both new and experienced users are at risk of overdosing on heroin because it’s impossible for them to know the purity of the drug they are using. She said that people who relapse after a period of abstinence are especially vulnerable because their tolerance is down. Experienced users are especially at risk because some are more confident and believe they can handle higher doses: “They say ‘I got this,’” said Maldonado.

Also pictured above is Antonio Roman, harm reduction counselor for the Holyoke Syringe Access Program, at the training at the Chestnut Middle School in Springfield on November 13. At the Holyoke and Springfield events, several police officers talked about the state’s 911 Good Samaritan law, which provides protection from drug possession charges when an overdose victim or an overdose witness seeks medical attention.

Overdose prevention education is critical for community health and well-being, especially during the nation’s growing opioid crisis. The Latino and African-American populations experience some of the fastest growth rates of confirmed opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, from 2014 through 2016 opioid-related deaths among Latinos more than doubled in the state, a rate higher than any other demographic. African-Americans were the only demographic to see a rise in opioid-related deaths from 2016 to 2017. As such, Gándara Center is dedicated to using the available data to identify engaging and appropriate solutions.

Because Gándara Center believes Narcan training should be available to everyone in the community, our agency plans to have more of these events in the future.