Trained volunteers at four locations in Morgan County will offer naloxone doses and guidance on how to use the overdose-reversal medication to any interested member of the public on Thursday, September 14.
All 13 Appalachian states will be hosting the free naloxone events on the same day, dubbed the first ever “Appalachian Save a Life Day.”
Naloxone is a medication with no adverse side effects that works to reverse opioid overdoses. One common brand is Narcan, an easy-to-use nasal spray.
“It’s no secret that the overdose epidemic has especially devastated the Appalachian region, thanks in large part to targeted efforts of the pharmaceutical industry in places left vulnerable by the coal industry. CDC data show that half of the ten states with the worst overdose rates are a part of Appalachia while Appalachian states lost 40,560 loved ones in 2021, representing 38% of the nation’s fatalities that year,” organizers of the events said.
According to Iris Sidikman, Appalachian Save a Life Day Coordinator, “This day of action is about showing how Appalachia is also a place people can look to for solutions. We are a region rich in mutual aid. We’re a place where everyone has lost somebody. And on Sept. 14th and every other day- we are turning that pain into care, courage, and power.”
In Berkeley Springs, free naloxone and training will be available on Thursday, September 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at these locations:
–Union Chapel United Methodist Church at 10123 Valley Rd, Berkeley Springs
–War Memorial Hospital at 1 Healthy Way in Berkeley Springs
— Morgan County Homeless Coalition at 47 Union Street in Berkeley Springs
— CNB Bank Main Branch at 101 S. Washington Street in Berkeley Springs.
–Reed’s Pharmacy in Hedgesville will also host the event.
“The most successful free naloxone day event is often setting up a table in front of a well-trafficked corner, maybe with a bus stop nearby, with unassuming conversations and naloxone moving all day,” said SOAR WV Co-Director, Joe Solomon.
A region-wide map of events can be found at www.savealifeappalachia.org.
Save a Life Day organizers started in 2020 with a two-county pilot in West Virginia, which then expanded to 17 counties in 2021, and last year all 55 West Virginian counties participated. Now, just three years since the effort began in the state with the worst overdose rate, West Virginia-based SOAR is working with over 180 counties across 13 states.
The 13 participating states are all recognized as part of the Appalachian region by the Appalachian Regional Commission: West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Maryland, and New York.
The theme for September 14 is “Partnering with People with Lived Experience.”
Many sites won’t just be serving people who use drugs or people in recovery but working alongside them – to organize outreach teams to high risk areas while making sure naloxone gets into the hands of people who need it the most.
The training takes just 5-10 minutes.
Recovery coaches will also be present and available at hundreds of events.
Major sponsors of the event include: AIDS Healthcare Foundation, CAMC Foundation, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Pallottine Foundation of Huntington, and the WV Drug Intervention Institute.
Across Appalachia, organizers plan to distribute over 30,000 naloxone doses throughout the day. Each location is powered by local volunteers who attended training to be able to participate.
Event organizers will collectively be distributing over 15,000 fentanyl test strips, 1,000 HIV tests, and nearly 30,000 anti-stigma stickers and pins.
Naloxone distribution has expanded in recent years. In 2023, the FDA approved two naloxone nasal products for over the counter distribution. West Virginia’s Office of Drug Control Policy and the University of Charleston Pharmacy School have supplied naloxone (brand name: Narcan) for West Virginia’s events since 2020.
The theme for the 2023 event is “partnering with people with lived experience.” Organizers are invited to explore ways to genuinely build with neighbors who are intimately close to the pains, solutions, and hopes surrounding the overdose crisis.
“People who’ve saved lives with naloxone or been saved are the frontline voices in this work,” said organizers.