WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A community health care center in West Warwick that cared for nearly 5,000 patients with substance abuse disorders last year is taking steps to make sure its entire staff has the tools and knowledge to help someone who’s experiencing a drug overdose.
Dozens of Thundermist Health Center employees on Friday attended the second of five planned training sessions on the use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose.
“Opioid overdoses happen accidentally all the time,” clinical pharmacist Christopher Durigan said Friday. “It’s actually the leading cause of accidental death in Rhode Island.”
In fact, 336 Rhode Islanders died from drug overdoses last year, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
“If you think about it, this is a mental illness just like anything else,” Durigan added. “So if we choose not to reduce the harm associated with the mental illness, then we’re really doing a disservice to our patients.”
Thundermist says it’s the first health care organization in the state to provide naloxone – also known as Narcan – to its staff and train them on how to use it. In addition, all 520 employees can sign up for a free dose to carry with them.
“So say one of our employees happens to come across someone who has overdosed, they have Narcan with them and they’re able to administer it,” Durigan said.
Thundermist representatives are hoping the program increases the amount of naloxone that’s out in the community. Along with equipping every employee, they’re also buying $10,000 worth of the drug to distribute to patients, according to Durigan.
“Just the thought that the more that’s out there, the more likely it is that we’re going to save someone’s life,” he said.
Thundermist hopes that after a near-death experience, a person would be more open to recovery.
“While Narcan is not the answer to recovery, it definitely helps keep people alive long enough to enter recovery,” Durigan said.
Thundermist expects to have all of its employees fully trained by mid-April.