See the latest Covid-19 information HERE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Astria Health announces new program to provide naloxone and education to Sunnyside law enforcement and correction officers. (SUNNYSIDE, Wash., March 15, 2023) – The lower Yakima valley has not been spared from a disturbing trend that is affecting the entire nation. In recent years, Yakima County has seen a shocking 344% increase in opioid attributed death, especially Fentanyl. Opioid deaths include heroin, and legally prescribed pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and others.
First responders are seeing a significant increase in risk through accidental touch and inhalation exposure to Fentanyl. Sunnyside Police Department is often first on scene to an emergency, increasing their risk of exposure to potentially fatal drugs. Emergency Department Director, Jody Shively, RN, and Pharmacy Director, Elizabeth Jensen, both of Astria Sunnyside Hospital, became aware that due to lack of necessary funding, Sunnyside police officers did not have an adequate supply of naloxone on-hand for use in case of accidental overdose.
Since 2019, Washington state has made naloxone available to the general public free of charge. Currently, individuals may order naloxone online and have it sent directly to their homes at no cost. Sunnyside police and correction officers are not provided naloxone to administer as needed, or for use in their own protection against accidental exposure. Sunnyside Police Chief, Robert Layman, had been searching for grant options to acquire naloxone for his officers. Without additional options, Sunnyside first responders had to obtain an individual prescription in order to have it on-hand.
Illegally obtained drugs are not the only concern. Prescription medications are found in many homes. “Every home should have naloxone, particularly if a household member has prescription opioids,” said Jensen. “Children are especially at risk of accidental overdose because many medications, including opioids, may look like candy to a child.” Households who would like to have naloxone on-hand in their first-aid kit should visit www.phra.org/mail-order-naloxone for more information.
Shively stated, “With naloxone available to all officers in a timely manner, first responders can revive and stabilize the patient for transport to the hospital. Naloxone should be a vital part of personal protection equipment for police officers, as important as a bullet proof vest or side-arm. Sunnyside police officers have had to administer naloxone to themselves and fellow officers after accidental exposure.” Shively realized that this unmet need closely aligned with the mission and values of Astria Health. Together Shively and Jensen created a proposal for Astria Health to provide education to Sunnyside police on naloxone, its use and storage, identification of a potential overdose, as well as to ensure Sunnyside police have naloxone on-hand at all times. Astria Health President and CEO, Brian Gibbons, and CFO, Maxwell Owens, championed their efforts to formulate a solution for the Sunnyside community first responders.
February 27 and 28, Shively and Jensen met with local police and corrections officers to distribute prescriptions and naloxone to 26 Sunnyside police officers and 4 Sunnyside corrections officers, and train them to administer and store the drug. Gregg Hutchinson, Firefighter Paramedic with Sunnyside Fire Department, is also meeting with Sunnyside Police Department to provide education and training on opioid exposure and opioid responses. Gibbons and Owens have committed resources to continue to dispense the prescription drug to Sunnyside law enforcement at no cost.
Gibbons stated, “Astria Health’s purpose statement is to ‘cultivate trust, support, mentorship and gratitude, empowering us to always do the right thing and go beyond the expected.’” This is one effective way we can further our purpose in a meaningful way.”
Astria Health is a non-profit healthcare system based in Eastern Washington. Astria Health is the parent organization of Astria Sunnyside Hospital and Astria Toppenish Hospital, along with Rural Health Clinics and 12 outpatient centers offering primary care and specialty services, including but not limited to behavioral health, dental services, home health and hospice, neurosurgery, oncology, podiatry, rehabilitation therapy and sleep medicine. For more information, please visit www.astria.health.
Posted March 15, 2023