Julia and David Pinsky lost their son to a drug overdose more than four years ago, and now they are promoting the use of naloxone to save lives of people who have stopped breathing because of drugs.
Julia was one of the featured presenters during a naloxone training meeting Wednesday at the Adapt offices in Roseburg.
After their son’s death, Julia Pinsky did a lot of research on the heroin epidemic and found out a lot about naloxone.
“It occurred to me that it might have saved my son’s life,” Julia Pinsky said.
That spurred Julia Pinksy and her husband to start an organization called Max’s Mission, named after their son Max, who was 25 when he died.
The Pinskys, who live in Jackson County, do naloxone outreach, including education and distribution of the drug to first responders, social workers, and others that could deal with people who are at risk of overdosing on drugs.
About 30 people turned out for the training session hosted by Douglas Public Health. Many of those were social workers, and Julia Pinsky said that makes her feel like they are making progress.
“I think it’s very heartening to see so many people come out and so many people care to be here to talk about it,” Pinsky said. “There are plenty of people that care deeply that pain can be addressed in other ways and less opioids can be prescribed because they are so dangerous.”
Naloxone is an overdose antidote for drugs like oxycontin, vicodin and hydrocodone, or street drugs like heroin.
Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, the public health officer for Douglas County, said the drug will bring people back to life. He said when someone overdoses on opiates, they stop breathing and naloxone reverses the overdose so they can breathe again. And it has no side effects.
“You take somebody who is very near death from an overdose and give them naloxone and the minute they wake up, they are back to normal, so it is truly a life saving drug,” Dannenhoffer said.
Dannenhoffer said they will come back to life, and be alert, although they might be pretty uncomfortable.
“But at least you’re alive,” he said.
Pat Moore of the Roseburg Police Department said they are making progress in getting their officers trained.
“We have a couple of pilot projects that are in the field now,” he said. “I put all the narcotics officers through the training so they’ve all got it in their raid gear.”
Moore said they had a number of people that were overdosing while they were being arrested, because they swallowed the drugs, so they wouldn’t get caught. So they decided it was important to have the naloxone with the officers.
The naloxone can be either injected or used as a nasal spray. Kits were distributed by the HIV Alliance from Eugene to those who watched the training videos. Executive Director Renee Yandel said the HIV Alliance got involved because they serve a lot of people dealing with opioid addiction.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in people accessing our service and an increase in people who say they’ve experienced or witnessed an overdose,” Yandel said.
She said a lot of their clients were asking what the Alliance could do to help them, so when the opportunity came up, they saw it as a way to help save lives.
David Stevens, the owner and pharmacist at Gordon’s Pharmacy in Canyonville wanted to do something to fight the opioid addiction problem so he started his own drug take-back program, and he’s hoping other pharmacies will eventually do the same kind of program.
“It’s worked great. We get quite a few people, some every week, that come in and drop off lots of pills,” Stevens said.
The pharmacy sends the drugs it collects to a company out of state that destroys them. There are other collection locations at the Myrtle Creek and Winston Police Departments and at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in Roseburg.
Christin Depner, the Prescription Drug Overdose Coordinator for Douglas County said one of the strategies they’re looking at to reduce opioid use in the county is to have the naloxone widely available.
“I wanted to partner in the meeting today, with Max’s Mission, with Adapt and HIV Alliance to start community trainings where people from agencies can come and have it, and also people that have family members that might need it, or for people that are using,” Depner said. “So I want to do more community outreaches like this.”
For more information on naloxone call the Douglas Public Health Network at 541-464-3855.