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Naloxone is administered as a nasal spray. The drug can reverse and opioid overdose.

Dalton Senior Center Receives Narcan Box to Potentially Save Lives

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Berkshire Harm Reduction Program Manager Sarah DeJesus shows Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson the Narcan box set up outside the Senior Center.

DALTON, Mass. — The town upped its harm reduction efforts on Thursday as it welcomed a Narcan box from Berkshire Harm Reduction, a program of Berkshire Health Systems.

The first of 20 boxes around the county was installed outside of the senior center on Field Street, containing nine kits with two doses of the life-saving medication used to reverse opioid overdoses.

"The more we can increase access points for people, the quicker we can start working towards chipping away at fatal overdoses and keeping people alive," Program Manager Sarah DeJesus said.

"So the more boxes we can get into the community, the more accessibility people have to naloxone and the more likely people and bystanders will be to save a life."

Naloxone, better known by the brand name Narcan, is administered nasally and blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system. Residents are encouraged to take a kit from the unlocked box to have in case of emergency and if they see a suspected overdose, call 911 and administer it.

"Narcan is very easy to administer. It's just a nasal spray," DeJesus explained.

"There are also directions inside the box on how to administer and one of the great things about Narcan is it doesn't do any harm to someone who's not having an overdose."

Town Manager Tom Hutcheson said Dalton is proud to have the first box in Berkshire County.

"We take the health of our residents and all Berkshire County residents very seriously," he said. "And this is a great step forward in a time when there are unfortunately a lot of human issues that need to be dealt with."

The partnership came out of a conversation and advocacy from Council on Aging Director Kelly Pizzi.  She felt it was a good location because the center’s grounds are used by all residents and opioid use does not discriminate by age.

"The seniors are interested because they have children, they have grandchildren, they have friends that might be taking opiates," she said. "Because it’s not isolated to young people."

Pizzi said that even if the box saves one life, it is a good thing.

Twenty of the boxes will be placed throughout the county in the next couple of weeks, some indoors and some outdoors. Locations were determined by organizational preference and strategic placement for the best possible outcome.

This will be the only location in Dalton. Boxes will also be at Berkshire Health Systems sites, the Pittsfield Police Department, Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield, the Christian Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, and some North Adams Housing Authority complexes.

The outdoor boxes hold nine kits and the indoor boxes hold 50 kits.

"This is an outdoor box. It just has those two latches on the side so you just open the box and grab a Narcan whether you need it in that instance, which is not preferable. Our hope is that people will take them ahead of time and have them on hand," DeJesus explained.

"Should they need them in an overdose situation, there's also information in the boxes about local resources and how to connect with services, there's a QR code that people can scan to connect with resources but yeah, it's super easy and then the indoor boxes don't have a door, they’re actually gravity fed and so you pull one right out of the slot in the bottom."

The state is part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEALing) Initiative that is being undertaken by the National Institutes of Health and covers 67 communities in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio.

In Massachusetts, it includes both Berkshire cities and about a dozen others such as Greenfield, Lawrence, and Springfield. Boston Medical Center's research team is leading the Bay State aspect.

The study aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths by 40 percent over three years and Narcan accessibility is a strategy of the initiative.
The state has a Good Samaritan Law that protects people during an overdose situation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved naloxone or Narcan for over-the-counter use.

DeJesus explained that the goal is to get it in many places as possible due to its safe nature and because overdose rates in Berkshire County and across the United States are continuing to be problematic.

"Narcan only has benefits. It's not going to harm somebody if you administer Narcan to someone who is not experiencing an overdose," she reiterated.

"If you're not near one of these boxes, Narcan is also available through pharmacies and at all Berkshire Harm Reduction locations on a walk-in basis, so anybody can come into any of the offices anytime and ask for Narcan. It's free, we don't charge a fee for any of our services and everything associated with the boxes also is free."

Bob Dean of BHR helped DeJesus install the box and will be restocking it with kits as needed.  He emphasized the importance of harm reduction efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Tags: narcan,   opioids,   

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Election Checkup: Pittsfield Sees Increased Interest in School Committee

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — More candidates have had their signatures certified and there is now a full slate of interest in the School Committee.

Not long after the City Council averted a petition from Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick that imposed a 30-year age requirement to represent Pittsfield schools, two more people have taken out papers for the six-seat board: Stephanie Sabin and Dominick Carmen Sacco.

According to her social media, Sabin works as a patient advocate for bariatric surgery at Berkshire Medical Center.

Kronick had proposed charter modifications that include a minimum 30-year age requirement on School Committee candidates and a one-year "cooling off" period for elected officials and it did not fare well.

A majority of the councilors and some community members spoke against the proposal before Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren called a charter objection.

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