FITCHBURG — The Health Department is holding a Narcan and Overdose Prevention Community Training at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, at the Legislation Building, 700 Main St., the first in-person training since COVID-19 hit two years ago.

“We are excited to be holding this training in person again, as it allows for more interaction with the trainer and also enables the attendees to have an opportunity to speak with local providers and obtain resources and support,” Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Susan Christensen said of the event, which is open to the community. “Narcan training is one of the strategies we employ to reduce overdose deaths and we know it saves lives.”

OD2A Street Outreach Worker Keith Barnaby leads a Fitchburg Health Department Narcan training held in February 2020 at Community Health Connections. (COURTESY FITCHBURG HEALTH DEPARTMENT)

She said Narcan “is a nasal spray that is easy to administer and has no potential for abuse.”

“It reverses an overdose by blocking the effects of opioids,” she said. “It can restore normal breathing in a person whose breathing has slowed or stopped as a result of opioid overdose. Participants will learn how to recognize an overdose and what to do if one occurs.”

Local treatment providers from the Fitchburg Interagency Team will have information available at the training, including Restoration Recovery Center, GAAMHA Inc., Fitchburg Comprehensive Treatment Center, Action Community Health Center, Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Fitchburg Community Justice Support Center, and Overdose to Action or OD2A, a grant-funded Health Department outreach program.

“Narcan will be distributed to all who attend,” Christensen said, adding that the Narcan is being provided by AIDS Project Worcester, which is the local Overdose Education and Narcan Distribution site for the region. “They have been ongoing partners with our OD2A Street Outreach initiative, and we are grateful for their continuing support in supplying our team with Narcan. Narcan saves lives. As long as someone is alive, there is an opportunity for recovery.”

OD2A Street Outreach worker Keith Barnaby, who will conduct the training, echoed her sentiments, saying “if they’re alive, they have a chance at recovery.”

The Fitchburg Health Department is hosting a Narcan and Overdose Prevention Community Training on March 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Legislation Building at 700 Main St. that is open to the public. (COURTESY FITCHBURG HEALTH DEPARTMENT)

“We are trying to decrease the stigma associated with substance use which can be accomplished by increasing people’s knowledge and understanding of substance use and overdose,” Christensen said. “Another important issue is recognizing that opioid abuse is not limited to a specific demographic. An overdose can happen at any time and the more bystanders that are trained, the more lives can be saved.”

Christensen said they “encourage anyone who hasn’t been to a training to attend.”

“It’s informal and informational, and Keith is both engaging and knowledgeable.”

She said the last in-person Narcan training the Health Department held for the community at large was on Feb. 6, 2019, right before the initial coronavirus shutdown.

“We did share training videos on Facebook during the pandemic and also offered one-on-one trainings at various events such as Drug Take Back Days and overdose vigils,” Christensen said.

She said at the largest past training 80 people attended and they used three trainers.

“We expect a good attendance since we haven’t held a congregate community training due to the pandemic,” Christensen said. “We are encouraging folks who may have attended in the past and have expired Narcan to bring the expired sprays and they will be replaced.”

She said that “with reports of fentanyl being found in a variety of substances, the potential for overdose is high.”

Fitchburg Health Department community Narcan training at Making Opportunity Count in 2018, led by a trainer from AIDS Project Worcester. (COURTESY FITCHBURG HEALTH DEPARTMENT)

“According to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), synthetic opioids like fentanyl are the primary driver of overdose deaths in the United States. Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, primarily illicitly manufactured fentanyl, rose 55.6 % and appear to be the primary driver of the increase in fentanyl deaths according to”

Mayor Stephen DiNatale said that “continuing to educate and inform the community about effective overdose prevention strategies ​is an important activity that can only result in lives being saved.”

Health Director Stephen Curry said it’s important to offer trainings such as this.

“The Health Department is glad we are offering programs like this which serve to educate and save lives,” Curry said. “With the prevalence of fentanyl nationwide, the ability to reverse the effects of an overdose is more important than ever.”

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