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Cayuga County joins ‘I am a first responder too’ campaign to combat overdose deaths

The Cayuga County HEALing Communities Study steering committee has joined 33 other communities across New York, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Ohio in launching the first communications campaign to help reduce opioid overdose deaths.

The campaign “I am a first responder too” aims to increase access to and availability of naloxone (also known as Narcan® nasal spray). Narcan is a medicine that can save someone’s life if they are overdosing on opioids, whether it’s a prescription opioid pain medicine, heroin, or a drug containing fentanyl.

Anyone – EMS, firefighters, family members, and friends – can be a first responder and give naloxone to someone who is overdosing from opioids. The campaign will run through June 30, 2020 on social media channels and

From January through May, 60 non-fatal overdoses were reported in Cayuga County. That equals one overdose almost every other day in one of our communities. During the same time frame, 9 people lost their lives through an overdose. In comparison, in all of 2019 a total of 9 overdose fatalities were reported. These staggering numbers show the heightened risk the current pandemic poses for people suffering from opioid use disorder, which lead the local steering committee to take immediate action to fast-track the access and distribution of Narcan throughout the county.

To replace in-person training and distribution that are currently not possible due to social distancing guidelines, a new webpage and online request form was developed. Cayuga County residents who are worried about overdosing on opioids or are concerned about someone else overdosing may visit, watch a short training video, and request a free Narcan kit, which will be mailed out by our community partner Drug Free Community Coalition, which is a registered opioid overdose prevention program.

The strategy also includes getting Narcan to individuals at the highest risk for overdose, particularly those being released from jail or who have recently experienced an overdose. Our partners in law enforcement and first responders are instrumental and committed to this effort.

“The best part about this study is that it enables us to develop our own action plan by picking evidence-based strategies that we can realistically implement with our community partners,” says Ray Bizzari, Chair of the Cayuga County HEALing Communities Study Steering Committee.

“Since our work began in January, we always operated with a sense of urgency,” says Monika Salvage, Project Director for the Cayuga County HEALing Communities Study. “But as we realized the impact of the pandemic on people struggling with opioid addiction, the committee took decisive action in an effort to save lives now.”