Saving lives at Harbour Centre
Harbour Centre held its first open Naloxone training event on Valentine’s Day. Attendees included service users, family members, student social workers, a nurse, a paramedic and staff from a range of services, bringing the total number of people in Plymouth who carry Naloxone to 120 (excluding our outreach workers) – all since April 2016.
Naloxone is a medicine which temporarily reverses the effects of opiates. Attendees learnt what to do in the event of an overdose, including how to use perform CPR and when to administer Naloxone.
Open Day organiser Suzanne Bloomfield is thrilled with the response. “We put this event together from scratch in less than three weeks and now have an effective training package we can replicate and roll out to other locations. You will see us on the road very soon!”
Ade Edwards, Operations Manager, is enthusiastic about the ideas sparked off by discussion among attendees. “We identified some really exciting opportunities for collaborations with other services – I can’t say much right now but watch this space.
“The team worked incredibly hard and they epitomise the creativity, innovation and dedication that typifies all Harbour’s employees and our approach to treatment.”
Harbour CEO Rebecca Cheshire reflects on the bigger picture. “Plymouth, like many areas of UK, has seen an increase in drug-related deaths in the last few years, particularly among illicit opiate users. Public Health England investigated this trend and concluded that the factors ‘are multiple and complex’ but include an increase in the availability and purity of heroin, and an aging cohort of users.
“Plymouth is taking a pro-active approach with the Drug-Related Death Forum, involving representatives from all relevant local services including public health and the police, and they review every single death to identify lessons to be learned. The forum also seeks to anticipate future likely threats to health.
“Another initiative is the multi-disciplinary Creative Solutions panel which identifies targeted, bespoke interventions to minimise the risk to particularly vulnerable and complex individuals. Unfortunately, we need to recognise that cuts to funding across the voluntary and community sector may itself increase the risks to those most in need of our support.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, 3674 people in England & Wales died as a result of drug use in 2015, the highest number for over 20 years. Nearly 80% of these deaths were unintentional and 54% of all deaths were as a result of taking opiates. These figures are not all about illegal drugs however; just over half were medications available on prescription or over-the-counter.
Rebecca continues “Every front-line worker in Harbour, and most of the back-office staff, is trained to respond to an overdose, perform CPR and administer Naloxone. We are increasingly using an outreach model to deliver our services so staff take Naloxone kits with them whenever off-site, including on home visits, and this has saved many lives. We also actively encourage and train our partners to do likewise.
“We never forget that every death, whether sudden or expected, affects dozens of people – their children, parents, partner, siblings, and friends. Staff are also affected as the therapeutic relationship can be very intense and may last years. Harbour and Livewell have a team of end-of-life champions to provide support and advice to the public and professionals alike.”
“Having Naloxone available at every overdose incident cannot prevent every death but does significantly increase the chance of survival.”