Augusta Free Press

Rescue medication for opioid overdoses available

In November, State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP, declared the Virginia opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency. In 2014, for the first time in Virginia, more people died from opioid overdoses than fatal car accidents, and the statistics compiled thus far for 2016 are equally grim. In the first half of 2016, emergency department visits for heroin overdoses increased 89 percent as compared with the same period in 2015, and fatal drug overdoses across the state increased by 35 percent.

In response to the growing opioid crisis, the Central Shenandoah Health District (serving the city of Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Augusta, Bath, Highland and Rockbridge counties and surrounding areas) will pilot a program to distribute naloxone, a fast-acting, safe and easy-to-administer nasal spray that can restore breathing and reduce the potentially fatal effects of opioid overdoses. A family member, bystander, first responder or medical provider can administer naloxone and save lives. The Central Shenandoah Health District will join the three regional community services boards (CSBs) – Harrisonburg/Rockingham, Valley and Rockbridge – to provide naloxone and free training for how to use it properly.

“The naloxone program is part of a harm reduction strategy to reduce deaths from opioid overdoses,” said Laura Kornegay, MD, MPH, health director, Central Shenandoah Health District. “We’ll work with our CSB partners to enhance prevention of and treatment for drug use, and provide resources to individuals needing help in battling the disease of addiction.”

“The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board is excited to partner with the Central Shenandoah Health District to assist in this important outreach to our citizens who struggle with opiate addiction,” said Ellen Harrison, executive director, Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board. “We will focus on outreach and education for people abusing opioids and their families about the addiction treatment services we provide, including “REVIVE!,” which trains lay people to administer medication to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, saving the life of the victim.

Those who should consider having naloxone for an opioid overdose emergency include individuals – and their household members – who have experienced an opioid overdose, used naloxone or prescribed or non-prescribed opioids, including heroin, or who have received or are receiving medication for opioid use disorder, such as naltrexone, methadone or buprenorphine. Those with the highest risk for opioid overdoses include anyone recently treated for an overdose, or anyone who has used opioids in the past and quit, including individuals released from incarceration or in patient treatment programs.

The Central Shenandoah Health District and Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board will hold free group training sessions for naloxone dispensing. For more information on dates, times and locations and to register, call the health department at 540-332-7830.

If you know or suspect that a friend or family member is struggling with addiction and substance use, talk with him or her about it. Addiction is a disease that is best addressed with counselling and sometimes medication-assisted therapy. People suffering from the disease of addiction, like any chronic illness, benefit from a strong support system to help them treat their disease.

For more information on the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Community Services Board, call 540-434-1941. Or visit or

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