MEDFORD, Ore. — As Jackson County sees a rash of opioid overdoses, several organizations are doing their part to keep people alive. On Monday, Max's Mission was in Medford's Alba Park, handing out the overdose-reversal drug naloxone for free.
“We have given out a lot of doses, an awful lot of doses," said Julia Pinsky, executive director for Max's Mission. "People contact us, we’ve given it out to the homeless, we’ve given it out to some of those businesses who see people who use . . . and we’re just trying to get as much as we can out there.”
Jackson County Public Health issued a "Red Alert" on Saturday after hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and other emergency responders reported seeing more than a dozen potentially fatal overdoses over the past several days. At least one suspected case did result in someone's death, the agency said.
Officials said that the overdoses are likely being caused by a particularly potent supply of heroin, or heroin that has been laced with other opioids.
“Because a dealer brings in a batch that’s too strong basically," Pinsky said. "We don’t know if there is fentanyl in it because it is too soon to test for that. It could be fentanyl laced, but it is very dangerous to use."
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is usually administered as a nasal spray to someone in the throes of an opioid overdose. It can reverse an overdose with near-miraculous efficacy.
Pinsky said that Max's Mission had handed out eight or nine doses of naloxone at Alba Park by Monday afternoon. They were also at the park on Saturday, doing the same.
"We were also giving some out this morning somewhere else, early this morning, so it’s ongoing,” Pinsky said.
For people like Pinsky and organizations like Max's Mission, it's a matter as simple as life or death. Naloxone can mean the difference between a second chance and no chance at all.
“They should have Narcan on hand, because they may not have used opioids before, but you do hear about people dying from just using once," Pinsky said. "And this is the holidays — it’s a tough time of year, people do things they don’t normally do — so it doesn’t do any harm.”
On Sunday the Compassion Highway Project paired its paired its Christmas lunch for the homeless with doses of naloxone, alongside basic clothes, hygiene projects, and gifts for the holiday season.