Health board to offer Narcan free, no questions asked

Arlington Youth Healthy & Safety Coalition logo

Overdose memorial candalkes, 2015

The Arlington Board of Health plans to offer free kits containing Narcan, an opioid antidote, through its Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition

The timing seems fitting, as this is National Overdose Awareness Week.

The intention of providing these kits -- no questions asked -- is to decrease and/or hopefully eliminate any barriers somebody with substance-use disorder or a loved one [of such a person] might face in accessing Narcan," coalition director Kayla Vodka wrote Aug. 29, responding to a YourArlington request.

That includes "the stigma that still exists by going through a pharmacy. We have taken a harm-reduction approach, with the intention of decreasing the number of fatal overdoses as the top priority." For more information about Narcan (a brand name for naloxone), she provided this link >> 

The kits are available at Calvary Church and will be available during town hours at the Board of Health.

Narcan from state attorney general

The Narcan within the kits was provided to the coalition by the state attorney general's office. The other kit supplies (CPR mask, gloves and a printed instruction sheet) were paid for via a regional grant, which includes Arlington.

Each kit is single use, though there are two doses of Narcan in each. It is common for more than one dose of Narcan to be administered during an overdose to revive the individual, Vodka wrote Aug. 30 in response to subsequent queries.

"Calling 911 should be the first step when an overdose occurs, as it might even take more than the two doses to revive the individual, and first responders all carry Narcan," she wrote.

Rescue breathing might be appropriate during an overdose to help revive an individual, she explained, adding that a CPR mask allows somebody to perform rescue breathing while also creating a barrier between the two individuals.

Recovery Coach - Tommy CaccavaroRecovery coach Tom Caccavaro Jr. / APD photo

Calvary Church, police involvement

The coalition has also made these kits available to Calvary Church as well as to Tommy Caccavaro, a recovery coach/clinician who works for health coalition and the Arlington Police Department.

Asked about the involvement of Calvary Church, Vodka wrote: "Calvary has been a significant partner for the Coalition, and it was a natural partnership for this pilot program."

She added: "Another important component of this program is to continue to bring awareness to the struggle of addiction and hopefully encourage empathy toward individuals who are experiencing a substance-use disorder, as well as educate about using stigmatizing language."

She continued, "We only just got confirmation late last week that the kits were in place and the employees were aware of the program."

In response to YourArlington inquiries, she added Aug. 30 that "This initiative is under way now due to the exciting expansion of our opioid response team. With the addition of Tommy (who provides Narcan to residents whom he visits with our APD clinician on post-overdose follow-ups), the community Narcan program was seen as [a helpful way] to provide life-saving medication to loved ones, bystanders or individuals who engage with substances prior to an overdose or first-responder involvement."

She said that Caccavaro in future will be hosting training and informational sessions about Narcan for the general public. 

She was asked about the connection between the safety coalition and the town Board of Health and whether the fact that the coalition is the repository for the kits indicates that opioid addiction is a problem that disproportionately affects young people in the town. She responded: "We are a predominantly youth-focused organization but have recently expanded our focus to address substance use within the entire community, racial equity and mental health."

Overuse of opioids: a growing problem

Officials say that the time is now for this important effort.

 "Unfortunately, overdose deaths have been and continue to rise. Here is some data from June 2022. This is the primary driver to provide Narcan to the public. Having Narcan available can save lives," wrote Vodka, who holds a master's degree in public health. 

News about this effort originally came in the form of a tip to YourArlington from a resident who asked for anonymity and who had expressed concern about the kits possibly being offered at Robbins Library.

After inquiring, YourArlington has learned that, after an agreement among the officials involved, plans have changed, and so the Board of Health, at 27 Maple St., will be the point of contact.

Anna Litten, acting library director, wrote Wednesday, Aug. 31: "We have no current plans to offer Narcan kits at Robbins Library. Kits are available at the Board of Health."

April 20, 2022: Police, human services welcome new recovery specialist

Sept. 1, 2015: First memorial vigil views addiction from those who suffer


This news story was published Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, based on information from the town officials quoted in the article.

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