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Workers can save lives with overdose antidote

he state announced a new effort Monday to get more overdose antidote medication into Oregon workplaces.

An opioid overdose can happen to anyone, whether it’s a co-worker or a customer, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“We know that many opioid overdoses happen in public spaces and at workplaces, and employers have a powerful role to play in helping save lives and turn the tide of this epidemic,” said Dr. Dana Hargunani, chief medical director for the Oregon Health Authority.

Hargunani noted most workplaces already are equipped with life-saving devices like fire extinguishers and automated external defibrillators — devices bystanders can use to shock cardiac arrest victims and restore a normal heart rhythm. She said she hopes the pilot program will encourage more employers to add the overdose antidote naloxone to their life-saving toolkits.

On average, five Oregonians die every week after overdosing on opioids, which includes heroin and prescription pain pills like oxycodone.

“Together, we can tackle this critical challenge in our communities,” Hargunani said.

A new Reverse Overdose Oregon website at reverseoverdose.org tells employers how they can get naloxone, which is available at most pharmacies without a prescription.

While supplies last, employers can also request a naloxone storage case by emailing ems.trauma@dhsoha.state.or.us.

The Oregon Health Authority plans to send out 8,000 of the cases, which include gloves, a rescue breathing mask, antiseptic wipes and an instruction card for administering naloxone. Employers need to add naloxone to complete the kit.

Naloxone is available at most Oregon pharmacies without a prescription.

The Southern Oregon-based nonprofit Max’s Mission provides free naloxone at local training events. Visit maxsmission.org or call 458-225-9760 for information on the next training events in December and following months.

Jacksonville couple Julia and David Pinsky founded Max’s Mission after their son Max died of a heroin overdose in Ashland in 2013.

“We know overdoses are happening everyday, everywhere,” Julia Pinsky said. “It’s not just in the streets. It’s in workplaces and public places and homes. The more we can have naloxone out in the community, the more we can save lives.

Before the Oregon Health Authority launched the initiative to get naloxone into more workplaces, Julia and David Pinsky traveled to Portland to train the employees of a business there. The business owner had contacted them after he saved the life of a person overdosing on an airplane.

Julia Pinsky said a short training can give people the confidence to take action if they see someone overdosing.

“When people understand what to do, they’re much calmer,” she said. “Knowledge is power.”

The couple are happy to visit business, nonprofit organizations and other groups to offer training, but she said the online tools provided by the Oregon Health Authority make it easy for businesses to get prepared.

Recent studies show opioid dependency has broad impacts in the workplace, according to state officials.

A 2019 National Safety Council survey found 31% of American businesses had experienced an overdose, arrest, near-miss or injury due to employee opioid use.

In the Rogue Valley, police and paramedics are equipped with naloxone so they can help an overdosing person.

Getting naloxone into the hands of more workers expands the potential pool of first responders during an emergency — allowing everyday people to save the lives of coworkers and community members, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

During a Monday press conference in Portland, Steve Clem — senior vice president of project planning services for the construction company Skanska — said the business is preparing its workers to handle an overdose situation.

“We see it as our responsibility to prepare workers to respond if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose on or near the job site. We recognize the opportunity workers may have to save someone’s life,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Associated press file photoOregon announced a new effort Monday to get more overdose antidote medication into Oregon workplaces.