Updated: Jan 12
“Do you want to be able to save a life in the event of an opioid overdose?” This is one of the questions that Joe Solomon, a volunteer with SOAR WV (Solutions Oriented Addictions Response) and a social worker with Cabin Creek Health, asks business owners across Charleston when trying to teach people about the life-saving effects of Naloxone.
Naloxone is a medication that can counter the effects of an opioid overdose. It literally saves lives. SOAR is trying to spread the word and get Naloxone to as many people as possible.
This is their fight against the opioid crisis.
Want to learn more about the work to address the opioid epidemic and how you can participate? Check out our interview with Joe below.
WVHKFC Staff: So Joe, what is Naloxone? Why does it matter?
Joe Solomon: First, a bit of context: West Virginia is going through its worst years of the opioid and addiction epidemic. The state is still covered in a blanket of tragedy and loss.
Our state lost over 1,000sons and daughters to drug overdoses in 2017. That number dipped in 2018 to 952 lost lives.
This is good news, but it’s also dangerous news because some people might think the epidemic is getting better—so they lean back and don’t feel the urge to fight it the same. In reality, we need to double down.
Most of the lives we lose are to fentanyl and heroin. There’s an antidote for those kinds of overdoses—it’s called Naloxone, or Narcan.
Naloxone? Narcan? What’s the difference?
Naloxone is the name of a medicine that can reverse opioid overdoses.
Naloxone blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, which can help someone start breathing again if they’re overdosing from an opioid like fentanyl, heroin, oxycodone, etc.
Four years ago, the FDA approved a version of Naloxone that comes in the form of a super simple nasal spray. That’s what’s called Narcan.
How do you use Narcan? What else should I know?
It’s good to get a brief training from your pharmacist, but the gist is if someone isn’t responsive, you shoot the spray up their nose like you would any allergy nasal spray. Here’s a quick guide.
If you know rescue breathing, and someone is breathing less than 6 breaths a minute—that’s something you can do in tandem.
The most important thing to remember is you must also call 911. Emergency providers have access to more Naloxone, and multiple doses is often necessary to revive someone. Naloxone also wears off, so people can overdose again after being brought back. And this last part is crucial: by calling EMS, you’re also protected from liability.
Using Naloxone does no harm either. If you’re wrong and the person isn’t responsive because of another illness, it won’t hurt them.
How do people get Narcan/Naloxone?
The biggest life saving secret in the state right now is that you don’t need a prescription to get Naloxone. You can just go to your pharmacist and ask for it.
West Virginia has a “standing order,” which means we have a statewide prescription already issued. The standing order states that Naloxone is to be made available to “residents of WV who are at risk of experiencing an opioid related overdose, or who are family members, friends or other persons in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose.”
In other words, the standing order applies to everyone, since everybody knows somebody.
So it’s attainable to most anyone?
Just about. Every insurance will have a different co-pay.
If you have Medicaid, Narcan is only $1-3! And you can get a new kit every month, or after any use.
You can also access free Naloxone at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
That’s fantastic. I feel like everyone should have this, honestly. You work with SOAR WV on this, right? What is SOAR?
I agree. Everyone can save a life.
SOAR stands for Solutions Oriented Addictions Response. It’s a community group that is working on just and compassionate solutions to the opioid and addiction crisis in the Charleston area.
It sounds wonderful. I hear SOAR is working to get Naloxone into businesses. How are you doing this?
Yes, we’re working with Dr. Lindsay Acree of the University of Charleston’s Pharmacy School and Dr. Christine Teague of CAMC’s Ryan White Program to get Narcan into businesses and churches across the city and beyond. We also work a lot with the WV Council of Churches and participate in Marshall University’s Great Rivers Regional System for Addiction Care. Over 40 local places now carry the opioid overdose antidote in their first aid kit!
Every other week, SOAR volunteers and Recovery Point clients canvass Charleston’s neighborhoods, asking stores, restaurants and churches a simple question:
“Do you want to be able to save a life in the event of an opioid overdose?”
And most places say yes. From Starlings on the East End to Base Camp Printing on the West Side.
What other places carry Naloxone?
We call places that carry Naloxone, “Lifesavers.” Some other Lifesavers in the Charleston area include: Oddbird, the WV Council of Churches, Capital City Vapors, Elk City Records, The Consignment Company, Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Mountain State Graphics and Awards, Partnership of African American Churches, Recovery Point, The Boutique by B.Belle Events, Folklore Music Exchange, Van’s Auto Shop, Valley Wellness Pharmacy, Sullivan’s Records, Charleston School of Beauty Culture, Kinship Goods, Taylor Books, Tricky Fish, Bluegrass Kitchen, and on and on. Two hot dog spots, a pizza parlor, a barbershop, and even a mattress shop also now carry.
There’s also Gypsy Sisters Tattoo in Madison and Dough Re Mi in Buckhannon. It’s spreading!
Most shops also put up a yellow sticker that says, “We carry Naloxone.” This lets people know that there’s an antidote nearby and also that that business cares about its neighbors.
And you all provide trainings for these locations as well?
Yes, over 50 of us have trained to be Naloxone trainers (thanks to Dr. Lindsay Acree). We give a training first, and then one of our pharmacist partners follows up with a dispensation and final consult.
So how could somebody get involved in this work?
People can join us every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 pm at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Quarrier Street for a community meeting. That’s where we come up with ideas like Naloxone distribution to businesses—as well as work on arts projects, recovery runs, big rallies, policy campaigns, and much more. It’s really whatever people want to work on.
The meetings are really hands on. And there’s free pizza and free childcare.
You can also stay tuned to our Facebookpage.
And this is open to everyone?
Yes! It’s an everyone issue, so everyone’s invited. Our next meeting is September 25th, next week!
Oh, I’m down. I’ll be there. SOAR’s work truly sounds wonderful. Charleston—and hopefully, soon, the rest of the state—is lucky to have you all.
Well we’re solution oriented; we look for ways to challenge stigma and help people in recovery thrive.
There’s so much to do, it’s overwhelming at times. But it’s less so when you’re at a table with people who want to make a difference. Also having pizza… pizza makes everything a little less overwhelming.
A moment of celebration for people who carry Naloxone at the Hope is in the Air event on August 24, 2019.