This story published in the Peninsula Clarion.
On Saturday, community members have the opportunity to participate in an emergency preparedness drill while getting the tools and education to potentially save lives.
Attendees don’t even have to leave their cars.
A community coalition that includes the Department of Health and Social Service Kenai Public Health Nursing, Change 4 the Kenai, Points on Prevention Coalition, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Management, the Alaska National Guard, the Reentry Coalition of the Kenai Peninsula and the Kenaitze Tribe will host a drive-thru Narcan kit distribution event at the Solodtna Sports Complex.
Change 4 the Kenai Director Shari Connor said the drive-thru event would take about 10 minutes as drivers make their way through several stations where they receive a Narcan kit, helpful information on how to identify someone who may be in crisis and an emergency preparedness bag to take home.
The point of dispensing exercise will serve the community in two different ways. Leslie Felts, nurse manager from Kenai Peninsula Public Health, said the event gives the organization an opportunity to practice mass distribution.
“As public health nurses for the state of Alaska, one of our priorities is emergency preparedness for everyone in the community,” Felts said. “One of the things that we focus on is preparedness in the event that there is a need to distribute mass vaccinations or antibiotics in the event of a serious biological threat, so to speak. To do that, you need to practice because these are big events.”
The event will also educate the community about Narcan and the opioid crisis affecting Alaska.
“We’re not just saying here’s a Narcan kit, go to it,” Felts said. “We’re making sure there’s education to go with it: how to identify an overdose, how to use the kit and how to call for emergency back up.”
In Alaska, the highest number of opioid-related deaths identified in one year was 108 people in 2017, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services. When a person is experiencing an opioid-related overdose, their breathing may become slow or stop completely. Narcan, or Naloxone, temporarily blocks or reverses the effects of opioids within 30 to 40 seconds, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
“Narcan kits hold overdoes medication,” Connor said. “It’s a life-saving medication that basically looks like Afrin nasal spray, and you use it on someone who you think may be suffering from an overdose. It immediately makes them start breathing again. Distributing them met agency needs and also needs for the current epidemic.”
Felts said Narcan kits were chosen because she knew they were something that people were interested in.
“(The Narcan kits) were something we wanted to see the community have on hand in the event they come across someone, whether it be someone that is overdosing or a child who got into medications, or an adult or elderly person that took too many,” Felts said. “Even for emergency personnel, if they come in contact with fentanyl they can overdose. The Narcan can reverse that.”
Sherra Pritchard, a public health nurse at the Kenai Public Health Center is optimistic about having so many community partners come together for the drill.
“In the event of a real emergency, it’s nice to know that we do have those strong community partnerships to be able to make something like this happen if it were a true emergency,” Pritchard said.