COUNTY—Representatives from the Wayne County Drug and Alcohol Commission (WCDAC) and the Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force (WCHPTF) announced at Thursday's Commissioner's meeting their fourth year partnering together to distribute another series of Narcan rescue kits into the community.

“We're very happy to be working with the Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force again on this initiative,” said Jeff Zerechak, WCDAC Executive Director.

“I'm very grateful to be here every year,” said Suzie Calkin Frisch, President of the WCHPTF.

Each year for the last four years, the county has approved $3,000 to fund the purchase of 40 Narcan doses for the WCHPTF to distribute through its network of community meetings and trainings.

“Just with these funds exclusively, we've disseminated probably 120 kits,” said Zerechak.

Narcan is a name brand of naloxone, a rescue drug often administered via nasal spray which works to reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose by blocking the brain receptors which absorb the deadly substance.

“Narcan is a very important tool in the reduction of overdose deaths,” said Zerechak, noting that the rescue drug alone won't end addiction, merely save a life long enough to allow the victim a chance to get the help they need to fight addiction.

“You can't help somebody build their life of recovery if they're not alive,” said Zerechak. “I can assure you that we see in our office many people that are enjoying long-term recovery … [whose] lives were saved from this medication.”

Overdose survivors taken to the hospital are met by representatives from WCDAC through the warm hand-off initiative and given a chance to open the toolbox to their recovery.

Frisch noted that, since efforts to get rescue kits into the community are entering their fourth year, “Not only are you funding us to help bring new people in that need to have this type of thing, you're also helping us replace outdated drugs.”

Frisch relayed she had learned in a discussion with Wayne County Coroner Edward Howell that there were 14 overdoses in Wayne County in 2018 and three drug-related suicides with two cases still pending review.

“I promise you, this is better...things are coming around,” said Frisch, noting in her ten years' experience dealing with the opioid crisis that access to recovery medications and open discussion of the crisis in media have improved the situation.

Commissioner Joseph Adams thanked the WCDAC and the WCHPTF for their efforts to both educate the community and equip them with the tools to save lives.

Finding solutions to the issue “is not a sprint, it's a marathon,” he said.

In a similar vein, Commissioner Wendell Kay noted the opioid crisis “is a multilayered problem, and so requires a multi-layered solution...Everybody has to have their role to play here, so thank you for being the ones to help us understand that in better terms.”

Commissioner Chairman Brian Smith congratulated the partnership on its longevity.

“It does us good to see the two of you sitting along side one another,” he said, noting that there were initial concerns for how the government agency and the citizen group could mesh. “It seems like the two of you are working together quite well and making progress.”

Getting help and saving lives

The WCHPTF holds regular meetings and training sessions to distribute Narcan rescue kits to members of the community.

More information about the organization and their meeting times, dates and locations is available on their Facebook page, “Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force 501 c3.”

According to a WCHPTF press release, “These distribution events will include a hands-on training provided by the WCHPTF where participants will get a feel for what it is like to respond to a real overdose situation.”

Trainings are free to the public, but attendees must first complete an online training from the Department of Health.

Zerechak noted recovery takes a great effort and a network of multiple tools to be successful. Acting as a pegboard to hold all these instruments in a centralized location, the WCDAC can be reached by telephone at 570-253-6022.

The WCDAC office is 318 Tenth Street in Honesdale. More information about the programs it offers are available on its web page, under the human services tab on the county website, www.waynecountypa.gov.

—Information from a release was used in this story.