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Berkshire Harm Reduction Implementing Narcan Boxes in Pittsfield
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:10AM / Friday, March 03, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hoping to save lives from opioid overdose, Berkshire Harm Reduction is bringing Narcan to the streets.
Program Manager Sarah DeJesus updated the Board of Health on Wednesday on the organization's efforts to place Narcan or Naloxone boxes in public places that are readily available for use.
The medicine, which is administered nasally, blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system.
"One of the recent initiatives that we became involved in is through the HEALing Communities Study, and it has a very ambitious goal to reduce overdose deaths by 40 percent in the next 18 months that the program is in existence," DeJesus said about federal pilot the city and North Adams the participating in.
"One of the ways that we're looking to do that is to really get as much naloxone or Narcan into the community as possible and so we've been working with a couple of businesses or organizations who are willing to host these public naloxone boxes. Massachusetts has a standing order for Narcan so anybody can obtain it, anybody can possess it, administer it. You don't need a prescription to get it so it's really low threshold access for the public."
Some other counties throughout Massachusetts have already implemented this program and BHR has been consulting with them.
"What we have heard pretty consistently is that the boxes that are located outdoors are utilized more frequently than the boxes that are located indoors so we're really hoping to have the majority of these boxes located on public property," DeJesus said.
Ten boxes have been allocated for Pittsfield, five of which are for indoors and five for outdoors.
The Alternative Living Center, Pittsfield Community Television, the Zion Lutheran Church, and the Christian Center have agreed to host a box, all of which are indoors. The organization is seeking outdoor hosts.
The program manager compared the boxes' functionality to public book boxes.
"There is no electrical component, there is no payment source, there is no nothing. It's just, you open the door, you take a box, and you go," she explained.
"The hope is really for people to have it and take it when they see these boxes as opposed to being in an emergency situation and needing one. So either circumstance is OK but we're hoping that they get into the hands of people that will need them prior to in the moment."
The outdoor boxes hold nine kits and the indoor boxes hold 50 kits. A BHR staff member is responsible for supplying and maintaining the boxes.
"We have a designated staff member at Berkshire Harm Reduction who, once the boxes are installed, will visit them on a rotating schedule and make sure that they're maintained and restocked and resupplied and check in with staff at the locations about any feedback that they had on the boxes and how much they're being utilized," DeJesus said.
"So there is no cost to the organizations or to the city. There is no expectation on the organizations to do anything with the boxes other than to host them."
Berkshire Harm Reduction, which is within Berkshire Health Systems, is operating a parallel program in North Adams with 10 boxes.
Public Health Director Andy Cambi said the plan is to come back to the board after the boxes are implemented and provide education.
The organization also has a needle exchange program at 510 North St. and a mobile harm reduction unit that travels throughout the region.
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