Local Organizations Blanket Cabell County with Naloxone: Meeting People Where They Are

Site of the Free Naloxone training event outside of the Memorial Student Center


Site of the Free Naloxone training event outside of the Memorial Student Center

Sequoia Ware, Staff Reporter

Local businesses, churches and non-profit organizations distributed Narcan throughout Cabell County during the Sept. 8 Save-A-Life Day event, also known as Free Naloxone Day. St. Peter’s Episcopal Community Outreach (SPECO), host of the Cabell County Save-A-Life Day event, said they distributed nearly 1,200 Narcan Nasal Kits on the day of distribution.


Narcan, the name brand for the opioid overdose reversal drug (also known as naloxone), was distributed at 17 different sites across Cabell County; which included churches, recovery facilities, local businesses, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, EMS, Huntington QRT and Marshall University Collegiate Recovery. 


The theme for the statewide event, “Meeting People Where They Are,” was inspired by SPECO, a local nonprofit organization in West Huntington. Jessie Maynard, SPECO Outreach Organizer, said that their organization leads a movement to take outreach services to individuals, rather than wait for individuals to come to them. 


“Our organization is constantly going on to the street and doing trainings and providing service and recourses. This year we wanted to incorporate that into our Save-A-Life Day and set up multiple sites to hit multiple demographics. In sum, we will get a larger portion of naloxone to people at risk of overdose by focusing distribution on high-risk areas, incorporating outreach strategies and partnering with people who use drugs,” Maynard said. “Save-A-Life Day is such an important event, not only to get life-saving Narcan into the hands of the community, but to help chip away at the stigma surrounding naloxone, people who use drugs and people in recovery.”


Save-a-Life-Day is a pilot effort across all 55 counties in West Virginia and is being convened by West Virginia’s Office of Drug Control Policy. West Virginia lost an average of two citizens to fatal overdoses each day in 2021—down from over three lives lost a day on average in 2020–according to the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy.  


Individuals trained during the event learned what drugs are considered opioids, how to recognize an overdose and how to properly administer Narcan. In 2021, EMS responded to over 1,000 suspected overdose emergencies, but efforts to put naloxone in the hands of the community has reduced the EMS workload and fatalities by nearly half according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. 


“I feel like this is important because if you can help someone, then I feel like you should,” Madilyn Witt, a 19-year-old criminal justice major from Marshall who received a Narcan Nasal Kit for the first time, said. “You don’t know who uses drugs. … Everyone is human, and everyone goes through certain issues, and we should not judge people for that. This stuff could save someone’s life.”


Olivia Roberts, a 19-year-old English major from Marshall University, also received Narcan for the first time on Sept. 8. Roberts said her biggest takeaway from her training was learning the signs of an overdose. 


“Hopefully I won’t have to use it, but I think it’s important to carry it in this area where opioids are a big issue. You never really know because an overdose can happen anywhere, and you can’t just anticipate, ‘Oh, I am going to need this today,’ or not,” Roberts said. 


Funding for the statewide day of action was sponsored by Aetna Better Health of West Virginia, Ayuda Medical, CareSource, CAMC Foundation, Community Connections, Unicare and the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute. The West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute (WVDII) provided over 10,000 fentanyl testing strips across the state for free distribution during the Sept. 8 event. 


“At the WVDII our mission is to reduce overdose deaths in our state,” Dr. Susan Bissett, president of the WVDII, said. “We want people who are struggling with the disease of addiction, or taking illicit drugs recreationally, to not do drugs and access recovery resources, but we also need them to live long enough to do so. Fentanyl testing strips are just one more tool in our kit for preventing overdose deaths.”


Dr. Matthew Christiansen, head of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy said in April 2022 that overdose deaths have peaked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 1,300 overdose deaths across the state since April 2021. Providing Narcan to the community is an effort to reduce the amount of deaths.


At Marshall University, SPECO estimates that 175 Narcan kits were distributed to students who visited the student center training tent on Sept. 8. SPECO currently does monthly Narcan distributions and the Cabell-Huntington Health Department also does training weekly. The Marshall Collegiate Recovery Community, located in the student center, is open to all students who are in need of recovery services.