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Public health to begin weekly Narcan giveaways in Albany

Albany Herald - 3/22/2021

Mar. 22—ALBANY — One alarming trend during the COVID-19 pandemic has been many people turning to substance use in uncertain times, and with overdoses spiking health officials are looking to get life-saving Narcan into area homes.

The Dougherty County Health Department is making Narcan, a brand name of naloxone that can be administered as a nasal spray, available to the public. The drug can revive patients who have overdosed on opioids such as oxycontin, heroin and fentanyl.

"In Dougherty County, in months when COVID has gone up overdoses have gone up," Dr. Charles Ruis, health director for Southwest Health District 8-2, said. "We don't know what correlation to draw from that, so we don't know how the two are connected."

Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services, which provides ambulance services, also has noted a large increase in opioid overdose cases.

The pandemic also interrupted a Narcan giveaway program started in November 2020 as a third spike in novel coronavirus arrived after the Thanksgiving holidays.

"It was a success," Ruis said of the event in November, "but that was about the time we got busy with COVID again. Because of COVID, we didn't have much marketing because back then we were stressing the importance of social distancing.

"While it's still important, now we have reached a point in the pandemic where we are sort of redirecting our efforts toward normal (services)."

Officials with Phoebe Putney Health System noted Monday that after a month-plus of significantly lower COVID-19 numbers, facilities within the health system had seen a "leveling off" of cases in recent days. But the numbers went down again Monday, as 24 COVID patients are now being treated at Phoebe facilities in Albany and Americus. The number at Phoebe in Albany fell to 23 on Monday, while the number at Phoebe Sumter in Americus remained at one.

The health department in Albany will begin weekly distribution of Narcan each Wednesday from 1-5 p.m. at its 1700 S. Slappey Blvd. office.

The doses will be available there for residents throughout the health district while supplies last. Individuals must be at least 18 and will be screened for the coronavirus and required to wear masks.

Narcan is a good overdose antidote to have on hand "for patients who have a substance abuse problem, but also for friends and family members of people with a substance abuse problem," Ruis said. "In many cases it works within minutes. People who have been basically comatose will be waking up, breathing on their own and talking within minutes."

In the event someone uses Narcan, he or she should still call for an ambulance, the health director said.

In many instances the ambulance service has had to administer multiple doses to revive patients.

And, Ruis said, in cases of opioid overdoses, the patient often has been using other substances in addition to an opioid drug, making it necessary to have additional medical assistance. Narcan does not adversely impact a patient who is not having an overdose event.

The health district also plans to make a link available to demonstrate how to administer Narcan at


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