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SASH Supports Opioid Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

In the spring and summer of 2023, SASH teams around the state worked to address the opioid epidemic effecting our communities by learning about opioid addiction, sharing information with participants, and employing harm reduction strategies. With grant funding from the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Aging and Independent Living, SASH purchased 70 Narcan boxes, stocked them with Naloxone, a face mask, and instructions, and put them up in housing sites in five areas of the state. Five housing agencies organized trainings for their SASH staff to learn how to administer Narcan in an emergency. The SASH housing sites that received the Narcan boxes include Downstreet Housing, RuralEdge Housing, Burlington Housing Authority, and Shires Housing. In addition to those sites, Brattleboro Housing Authority hosted a training for their staff on Narcan administration.

"All 5 of our coordinators and one of our wellness nurses have been trained in administering Narcan," shared Becky Arbella from Shires Housing. "Ralph from Turning Point in Bennington did our training and distributed Narcan and a recovery bag with quite a bit of information in each bag. The coordinators and wellness nurse carry them with them."

Here are some additional site-specific outcomes:

  • Downstreet Housing had their entire staffed trained in Narcan administration by Vermont Cares. Some staff are carrying Narcan and there is Narcan available at the main office for emergencies.
  • At Brattleboro Housing there are six coordinators and two nurses who have been trained through the Southern Vermont AIDS Project. There are two SASH coordinators who carry Narcan on them.
  • All RuralEdge SASH staff have been trained to administer NARCAN. Property managers have also received this training. Many RuralEdge staff are carrying Narcan.
  • At Burlington Housing there are boxes up at the Decker Towers site on all floors that are fully stocked. The Vermont Department of Health held a staff training on Narcan administration for staff.

SASH purchased 10 additional lock boxes for the safe storage of medications by participants as well as 270 twice a day and 326 three times a day pill dispensers for SASH nurses to give to participants to help prevent medication errors.

On June 19th, SASH presented a training for SASH staff as well as partner agencies from around the Vermont. The one-hour webinar by Dr. Michael Fingerhood from John Hopkins Medical was called “Opioid and Benzodiazepine Use in Older Adults: The challenge of providing safe, compassionate care, while trying to effectively address pain, anxiety and sleep”. There were 102 people who attended live and the recording has been shared with all SASH staff.

The opioid epidemic is effecting our communities. “As of the end of April, there have been 80 opioid-related accidental and undetermined deaths among Vermont residents. The number of opioid deaths is higher than the three-year average through April.” More Vermont-specific statistics can be found here: Monthly Opioid Report (healthvermont.gov)

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