New NY county jail program aimed at preventing opioid overdose deaths
Nearly 20 inmates have taken the training to administer naloxone; those who participate will receive a rescue kit when they leave the jail
By Amy Neff Roth
ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. — Oneida County jail inmates can leave jail prepared to prevent opioid overdose deaths thanks to a new jail program.
Inmates may participate in the voluntary program to be trained to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, to people experiencing overdoses from heroin, painkillers or other opioids, Sheriff Robert Maciol announced Wednesday. Those who participate will then receive a rescue kit with naloxone when they leave the jail.
Nearly 20 inmates, some men and some women, already have taken the training and earned two-year certification, Maciol said.
"As we continue to deal with the opioid crisis and we continue to see both nonfatal and fatal overdoses occurring, we have to think outside of the box on ways to save lives," Maciol said in a statement. "One quick and inexpensive way is to (ensure) that there are as many people trained and equipped with Narcan out in the community and with this program, we are doing just that."
This isn't the first time the sheriff's office has tried to take a proactive approach to the opioids. In 2016, it launched a program to give soon-to-be-released inmates shots of Vivitrol, a drug that can reduce opioid cravings, and to get them enrolled in community substance use disorder treatment programs while they're still in prison.
Newly released inmates are particularly vulnerable to overdose because they haven't used opioids recently and often go back to too-high a dose or to drugs laced with fentanyl, which they aren't used to. In the past, they also often faced a delay between being released and being able to get enrolled in programs that can help them.
Although programs to equip as many first responders and community members with naloxone as possible have definitely saved many lives, frequent overdoses continue in Oneida County. There were 365 opioid overdoses, 38 of them fatal, in the first 11 months of last year, according to the Oneida County Overdose Response Team, whose numbers only include overdoses to which law enforcement is called.
The jail naloxone training and rescue kits are being funded and run through a partnership between the sheriff's office, the Oneida County Department of Mental Health and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
It is the first training program in a series that will next offer CPR training to inmates in the early spring, according to the sheriff's office.
©2020 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.