Newsbrief: Portland, Maine, Moving to Provide Anti-Overdose Drug to Addicts, EMTs 7/26/02

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Faced with a rising number of overdose deaths, officials in Portland, Maine, are moving forward with plans to increase the availability of Naloxone, a drug administered to overdosing heroin users. According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, police, fire and public health officials met on July 17 to find ways to blunt the increase in overdose deaths, which rose from 16 in 2001 to 20 so far this year.

Local officials plan to offer naloxone to addicts who participate in the city's India Street Clinic needle exchange program, the newspaper reported. Under the plan, participants would have to undergo training in how to properly administer the drug, then they would be provided with a kit that includes a dose of naloxone, latex gloves and alcohol wipes. Drug users would also be encouraged to call 911 to report overdoses, because naloxone's opiate-blocking effects are only temporary. The local police chief has said he will not "subvert criminal investigations" if confronted by an overdose, but would take all factors into account because "after all, we're trying to save lives."

The plan will also extend Naloxone availability to all 52 of the city's ambulances and fire trucks. Currently, only 30 paramedics are authorized to stock the anti-overdose drug, but city officials are working to win state approval for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) as well as paramedics to administer the drug.

Citing efforts in Chicago, San Francisco, New Mexico, Germany and Australia, Portland officials embraced harm reduction principles in dealing with the rising death toll. "We're focusing on the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue," Portland Director of Health and Human Services Gerald Cayer told the Press Herald. "Our short-term goal is to reduce mortality. Our long-term goal is to reduce opiate use."

Portland officials said they hope to have the program in place by September.

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Issue #247, 7/26/02 Editorial: Silliness on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board | State Supreme Court Upholds California's Proposition 215, San Francisco Prepares to Grow Own Medical Marijuana Supply | British Decrim Move Inspires US Editorialists | Transnational Radical Party Takes Aim at Russian Drug Laws | Capitol Hill Press Conference Calls for States' Rights to Medical Marijuana | Libertarian Party Plans Offensive Against Drug Warriors | Newsbrief: Dutch Cannabis Café Chains Vow to Invade Britain | Newsbrief: Cancer Pain Inadequately Treated, Says NIH | Newsbrief: Democratic Presidential Candidate Plays Crime Card -- Calls for Parole End, More Drug Testing for Probationers | Newsbrief: Narcocorridos Banned in Baja California | Newsbrief: Kenyan Students Riot Over Deadly Marijuana Bust | Newsbrief: Portland, Maine, Moving to Provide Anti-Overdose Drug to Addicts, EMTs | Newsbrief: Coked-Out Judge Busted | Newsbrief: Budget Crisis Kills Connecticut Drug Courts | Newsbrief: Bad Week for Marijuana Police -- Two Dead, One Injured in Accidents | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | Addictions Discrimination Panel Seeking Testimony | Addendum: Jeff and Tracy | The Reformer's Calendar
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