Health Dept. enlists online training platform in fight against opioid overdoses - Baltimore


Feb. 18, 2016 12:53 pm

Health Dept. enlists online training platform in fight against opioid overdoses

Learning how to administer Narcan can prevent overdose deaths, which are dramatically on the rise.

Leana Wen talks about the Baltimore City Health Department's new naloxone training program.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Baltimore’s health department believes an online training platform will expand access to training for a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose.

Through the city-run website, citizens can watch a video of Health Commissioner Leana Wen administering naloxone (also known as Narcan), and complete a four-question review. They receive certification for naloxone, which is required by law before administering.

Get trained

Naloxone, which is available as an injection or nasal spray, completely reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids, which include heroin, fentanyl, morphine and prescription drugs. Public health experts including Wen have long called to make it more widely available to people who know others who are regular drug users, and have sought to train EMS workers, police and members of the public who come into contact with users.

“Despite this growing epidemic, opioid overdose is a preventable,” said Kathleen Westcoat, CEO of Behavioral Health System Baltimore. “When people know how to respond to an overdose and are equipped with naloxone, we can decrease overdose deaths.”

The city health department trained 8,000 people in 2015, but thinks it can reach more people by taking away the in-person training element. The online certification takes about 10 minutes, Wen said.

Along with the overdoses arising as a result of heroin use, Wen said the new training tool comes amid an increase in fentanyl overdoses. She said health department records show a 178 percent increase in overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2015.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the lead reporter for Baltimore. A graduate of Northeastern University, he moved to Baltimore following a stint in New Orleans, where he served as managing editor of online news and culture publication NOLA Defender. While there, he also wrote for Times-Picayune. He was previously a reporter for the Rio Grande Sun of Northern New Mexico.


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