Berrien County Health Department, Trial Court partner to address overdoses

Published 10:30 am Monday, May 20, 2024

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NILES — The Berrien County Health Department and Berrien County Trial Court have partnered to address opioid overdoses by bringing a free Narcan vending machine to the community.

The lifesaving medication is now available at the South County Building, 1205 N. Front St., during normal business hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The vending machine is available on an anonymous basis.

Narcan is the branded name for naloxone, an easy-to-use nasal spray that can help reverse the effects of an opioid overdose in minutes. The Berrien County effort is supported by the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice’s multiyear project to place naloxone vending machines throughout Michigan.

“We are grateful to Wayne State for its support of our ongoing efforts to educate the community about Narcan and help prevent overdoses,” said Lisa Peeples-Hurst, BCHD’s public health promotion and prevention supervisor. “We know increasing access to Narcan saves lives, and we are proud to partner with the Berrien County Trial Court in providing this critical resource to community members.”

The South County Building is one of 40 sites throughout the state that have a free Narcan vending machine through the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice program. According to the Center, “getting Narcan into the hands of as many people as possible, especially people at high risk and those closest to them, is an important public health strategy for preventing opioid overdose deaths.”

Narcan is effective at reversing opioid overdoses and works for any opioid, including heroin and fentanyl. The vending machines are installed at no cost to the community. Each kit features a sticker with a QR code that links to a 30-second video explaining how to administer Narcan nasal spray.

“The Berrien County Trial Court is pleased to be able to bring this service to the residents of Berrien County,” said Carrie Smietanka-Haney, court administrator. “Programs of its kind have been hugely successful in preventing overdoses statewide, and we are honored to work with the Berrien County Health Department to continue enhancing public access to these lifesaving kits.”

In addition to the vending machine, BCHD offers free Narcan training year-round. The sessions cover the signs and symptoms of an overdose and what to do if you think someone is overdosing, which includes administering Narcan if available.

Starting June 19 through September, BCHD will offer this training on the third Wednesday of each month 9 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. at its Benton Harbor office, 2149 E. Napier Ave. Participants must be 18 or older. To register for the training, call (269) 927-5622. For more information, visit the BCHD website.

Michigan is one of many states that will not prosecute anyone who alerts first responders to a potential overdose. Always call 911 if you believe someone has overdosed.