Easthampton to mark International Overdose Awareness Day 

  • Easthampton has expanded its Naloxbox program in the city to five new locations, including Learn to Cope, River Valley Co-Op, Abandoned Building Brewery, the Boylstone Rooms and Se7ens Sports Bar and Grill. EASTHAMPTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 8/24/2022 8:34:32 PM
Modified: 8/24/2022 8:30:56 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city’s Health Department is joining a global day of remembrance for those who have died as the result of a drug overdose with a community event and vigil on Monday, Aug. 29, in recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Since 2012, International Overdose Awareness Day has been coordinated by the Australian public health organization, Penington Institute. It was initiated by Sally J. Finn, who was managing a needle and syringe program at the Salvation Army in St. Kilda, Melbourne.

What originally began as a local event that allowed friends and family to come together to remember a loved one who had died has grown into an event held annually on Aug. 31 in more than 40 countries.

While neighboring Northampton, Holyoke and Westfield have previously recognized the day, this will be the first time for Easthampton.

“It is important for our community to know and make our residents aware of the resources we have here in Easthampton, and we’re happy to be able to present them,” said Bridget Diggins, who was hired as the city’s community public health nurse in November.

Although the day is typically observed on Aug. 31, the Easthampton Health Department elected to host its event on Aug. 29 to provide an opportunity for members of local communities to attend several events during the week, said Liz Plouffe, who was hired as the city’s community social worker in July.

“Even in the last few weeks here in Easthampton, we have heard from a number of families saying that they have lost people close to them to an overdose. People have been reaching out for needs and support related to substance abuse,” Plouffe said. “A lot of people feel like they have to go outside of Easthampton to find resources and support, and by holding an event like this, we can let them know that we’re here and there is support.”

The event will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at Nashawannuck Pond and feature resource tables from agencies across Hampshire County, including Learn to Cope, River Valley Counseling, Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition and Hampshire HOPE, according to Plouffe.

Attendees also have the opportunity to light a candle to remember a loved one.

“Events like this are really important to help reduce the stigma around substance abuse and to help support families, so they are not alone in this,” said Plouffe. “The more people talk about the need, we’re hopeful we’re reaching as many people as we can and can later offer more events to address that need.”

For those with questions about Easthampton’s event, contact Plouffe or Diggins at 413-529-1400.

Naloxbox program expands

In addition to the day of remembrance, the city’s Health Department has also expanded its Naloxbox program, which provides access to lifesaving medication throughout Easthampton.

In May, the city installed clear boxes at several public locations throughout Easthampton that contain three nasal spray doses of naloxone — more commonly known by the brand name Narcan — a medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose. Boxes also contain a rescue-breathing mask, medical gloves, and step-by-step instructions on how to administer Naloxone in the event that someone overdoses on opioids.

During the first phase, these opioid rescue kits were installed at the Municipal Building, the Emily Williston Public Library, Mountain View School and Easthampton High School, according to Easthampton Health Director Bri Eichstaedt. With the most recent expansion, these kits are now available at Learn to Cope in the Eastworks building, River Valley Co-Op, Abandoned Building Brewery in the Brickyard building, The Boylston Rooms in the Keystone building, and Se7ens Sports Bar and Grill.

“We wanted to spread them throughout town as much as possible,” Eichstaedt said. “We chose heavily traveled and visited buildings, spreading to River Valley Co-op, the furthest location away from the Public Safety Complex, to Se7ens on Cottage Street, which also has some night life.”

She also noted that the Health Department collaborated with leaders from the Police and Fire departments to determine the locations at local businesses based on overdose statistics as well as their proximity to current opioid rescue kits.

All kits are monitored daily. Since their initial installation, Eichstaedt said the only kit that has had to be replenished was at the Municipal Building on Payson Avenue.

“We’re not aware of it being used in an emergency capacity, but the naloxboxes are not like a fire extinguisher. Anyone can take the naloxone from the box, including in non-emergency situations,” she said. “Using naloxone has no adverse side effects, including if one were to use it accidentally on a person who is not experiencing an overdose. … The more naloxone we can have accessible during an emergency, or available to those who need it, the higher chances we have to save a life.”

For more information on the program, visit easthamptonma.gov/623/NaloxBox-Program, which also features a video on how to administer naloxone.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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