YMCAs partner to take step in combating opioid addiction

SOUTH BEND — Residents across Michiana will have the opportunity to take part in life-saving Narcan training. The nasal spray temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdose.

During a press conference Wednesday morning at the YMCA of Michiana, regional YMCA leaders came together with multiple partners across the Michigan and Indiana state line to discuss a community Narcan training.

A Narcan class will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Feb. 11 at the St. Joseph County Library, 304 S. Main St. in South Bend. The training will be conducted by a member of Oaklawn, a mental health and addiction treatment service — a partnering organization in the effort. Those who participate will learn how to use Narcan and how to recognize the signs of an overdose. Organizers said they also hope to be able to supply participants with a Narcan dose. The training is free and open to the public. An RSVP is requested but not required. To do so, visit michianaymca.org/narcan.

Denise Peters, chief operations officer for the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, was among those who addressed the press Wednesday. Peters said she has been working with the Berrien County Health Department with the hopes of bringing a Narcan training to the Niles area sometime this year.

Peters said the need for Narcan training in southwest Michigan is apparent. She said the recently launched addiction recovery Carol’s Hope program, which the Y is part of, is one example.

“When we opened up Carol’s Hope, they have already served a lot of people there,” Peters said.

South Bend Police Support Division Chief Tom Lancaster approximated that police use more than 25 doses of Narcan a year to save lives. 

“As first responders, we issue Narcan on a regular basis,” Lancaster said. “It has been a game changer. It saves lives for sure. This will only help our goal of saving more lives.”

By offering the training to residents, Peters said the YMCA is responding to a community need and hoping to save lives and address stigma surrounding the issue.

“We all know that addiction does not choose any social, economic status, race, anything — everyone is affected by addiction,” Peters said. “Taking away that stigma and emphasizing that it needs to be in the hands of those who know someone [with addiction] or their family members that care.”

John Horsely, the director of addiction services for Oaklawn, said that one of the stigmas surrounding Narcan use is that it enables addicts to continue abusing drugs.

“People unintentionally overdose for a variety of reasons,” Horsley said. “When that happens, having this available will save their life and give them hope and an opportunity to recover. What you are actually doing when you administer Narcan is enabling recovery.”

While Horsley said he encourages anyone to attend the training, he said he would especially like to get the information and Narcan to those who know addicts or struggle with substance abuse disorder themselves.

The effort is a partnership between the YMCA of Michiana, which is in a management agreement with the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, Oaklawn, the St. Joseph County Department of Health and city of South Bend. A grant and the multiple partnerships are helping to fund the Narcan. Nationally, the Y-USA has partnered with Emergent BioSolutions, which will help to provide Narcan to the YMCA and the library.

Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski was also expected to attend Wednesday, but due to the partial government shutdown, which was in its 33rd day Wednesday, was not able to attend.

In February, the staff at the YMCA of Michiana will be trained to administer Narcan.

Peters said she was glad to have the YMCA be a partner in the effort.

“The Y for 165 years has been working to serve their communities’ needs with treatment or preventative plans,” Peters said. “The most important piece is that we as a community strive to work together.”

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