CHICO, Calif. – The question of what would you do if you came across someone who appeared to be overdosing on opioids is one that has helped drive local efforts to teach people how to respond and possibly help save a life.
Kelly Steinhauer is a teacher in the Chico area and recently attended a training session on how to use Narcan nasal spray, which can be administered to someone experiencing an overdose. She says it is disheartening to know there are people going through a rough time which could lead to drug use. Steinhauer says she is surprised at the number of opioids in the community, including doctor-prescribed medications as well as illegal drugs. She attended a free Narcan training session, saying she believes it is her responsibility to step in when she is available, to help people who may be addicts.
The session Steinhauer attended is offered by the volunteer organization Northern Valley Harm Reduction Coalition. The group formed last year in response to the number of opioid overdoses in the region. In 2017, Butte County led the state in the number of opioid and heroin-related hospitalizations. The number of opioid prescriptions in Butte County was double the state rate.
Those numbers, coupled with first responders having to administer the Naloxone anecdote to overdoses, commonly known as the Narcan spray, helped prompt a television public awareness campaign with Enloe Medical Center, Butte County Behavioral Health and the Chico Police Department.
Chico Police Chief Michael O’Brien says part of the reason for the public campaign is the need to first let the public know there is a problem, then to look at and consider the most effective ways to deal with that problem. Those steps include educating doctors about over-prescribing, warning people of the dangers of illicit drugs and teaching first responders and the public how Narcan can help save lives.
Another woman attended the free training session as well, saying such information is valuable. She recalls a friend talking to her fearing they had overdosed and she admits, she did not know what to do. She says having even basic information and resources helps her feel more prepared.