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Patient Care

Santa Fe MIH Program Works With Prevention Group to Stop OD Deaths

Nov. 04--The Santa Fe Fire Department and a local group are partnering to train drug overdose victims and family members in how to use the anti-opioid overdose drug naloxone, better known by the brand name Narcan.

The goal of the program is to provide the community with resources to help prevent deadly overdoses, Andres Mercado, a fire department paramedic and program director for mobile integrated health, said Thursday.

"It's essentially having a community army of first responders," he said. "And the hope is that it prevents an overdose because they have Narcan available."

The partnership between the fire department and the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance, a group that works to prevent alcohol and substance abuse, is the first of its kind in the state, says a news release sent out by Matt Ross, the city's spokesman. So far, 14 drug overdose victims and family members have been trained in naloxone use, and 22 kits have been handed out.

The training began last month and follows an increase in drug overdose deaths in Santa Fe County last year.

Drug overdose victims who have been resuscitated by members of the Santa Fe Fire Department are offered the training in naloxone use, as well as education in overdose prevention. Training also is available to family members or others who live with the overdose victims.

A Santa Fe Fire Department paramedic and an outreach worker from the Santa Fe Prevention Alliance go to the homes of overdose victims to provide the training and Narcan kits.

Drug overdose deaths in Santa Fe County jumped to 48 in 2015, three more than in the previous year, according to the state Health Department. The increase in Santa Fe County came despite a 9 percent drop in overdose deaths statewide.

When compared to other states, New Mexico has ranked at the top or near the top in fatal drug overdoses for the past two decades. The epidemic has led to several programs that are now being implemented nationally, including expansion of access to Narcan.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office was one of the first law enforcement agencies in New Mexico to have officers carry the lifesaving medication. That followed officer training last year.

Gov. Susana Martinez also signed into law a measure that requires opioid prescribers to check the state's Prescription Monitoring Program the first time they prescribe those drugs to a patient and to check the system every three months for repeat prescriptions in order to prevent patients from shopping around for the drugs, either to feed their addictions or to sell on the street.

Earlier this year, New Mexico health officials began investigating 20 drug overdose deaths, including one in Santa Fe County, likely caused by illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a potent opioid painkiller associated with hundreds of deaths nationwide in recent years.

The state Department of Health and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said victims of the fatal overdoses ranged in age from 17 to 63 and three were women. Of the 20 victims, 11 also had methamphetamine present in toxicology results.

According to the federal government, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Medical professionals prescribe it to treat hospital patients' pain after surgery. Federal officials, however, have warned of a recent wave of illegally produced fentanyl being sold in the U.S.

Contact Uriel Garcia at 505-986-3062 or ugarcia@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.

Copyright 2016 - The Santa Fe New Mexican

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