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Narcan

Narcan nasal spray on an information table during a workshop at the North Bend Community Center on Nov. 17, 2018.

COOS COUNTY — More of the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone, is being prescribed in Coos County than throughout the rest of the state.

In Coos County, naloxone is being prescribed at a rate of .61 per 1,000 residents, while the statewide average is .53 per 1,000 residents. This means 39 people received a naloxone prescription in Quarter 3 of 2018, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

David Pinsky with Max's Mission hands out Narcan kits to during a workshop on the use of the life-saving overdose drug at the North Bend Commu…

Advanced Health has led the charge in changing how people see naloxone, as well as helping make it more available to the public.

“It’s been one year since this project launched to get naloxone out there,” said Kate Frame, the prescription drug overdose prevention coordinator with Advanced Health.

Back when she began educating people, there was little naloxone being prescribed.

“We were calling pharmacists to see if they were prescribing it and they said they don’t even have them on the shelves and that no one asks for it,” she remembered. “If naloxone is prescribed by a pharmacist, someone has to ask for it and can be trained to use it there. That was from recent state laws to expand access, but pharmacists were saying no one was asking for it.”

On the other side of it, Frame discovered health care providers at the time weren’t co-prescribing it with opioid prescriptions, which meant almost no naloxone was being prescribed.

“Through a variety of different efforts, we launched different campaigns to raise awareness that you can get it from a pharmacy and doctors can co-prescribe it when you reach the potency of that opioid, that then naloxone should be co-prescribed at the same time,” Frame said.

One local nurse practitioner had the idea to put this information into the hands of doctors and the public through brochures. Advanced Health designed its own naloxone handout and now have them spread throughout Coos and Curry counties.

The Oregon Health Authority’s data dashboard is now tracking naloxone. As Frame described it, the dashboard tracks drugs by class and previously weren’t tracking naloxone. Now that it is, the last quarter shows a “huge increase” in prescribing, which Frame sees as proof that these efforts are paying off.

“We’re continuing to partner with HIV alliance to do trainings, so not only are we raising awareness but are providing opportunities to give it out for free,” Frame said.

Advanced Health and the HIV alliance held a town hall for community members a couple months ago and from that Advanced Health launched “Overdose Aware.” The idea came from attendees who wanted to get involved.

Overdose Aware is an outreach team that goes to vulnerable locations, such as downtown areas where people could potentially overdose.

“We’re working with the businesses and people who live in those areas,” Frame said. “We want to target our communication and keep with the idea that our community needs to be as saturated with naloxone as opioids.”

On top of the increased naloxone prescriptions, Frame said Coos County is also seeing a sharp decrease in over-prescribing, though it is still higher than the state average.

“We’re also seeing an increase in providers enrolling in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and are close to 100 percent with that for enrollment,” Frame said.

The program allows doctors to look at other medications patients are being prescribed by other providers, lowering “doctor shopping” and over prescribing.

“It helps lower risky prescribing too because some drugs react together,” Frame said. “I see the healthcare community working hard on that.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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