In an attempt to help battle the opioid crisis, the city of Seattle will distribute 700 naloxone kits and convene 25 training sessions with community organizations as part of an effort to counter overdoses caused by pills laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Thursday.
Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a nasal spray that can be used to reverse opioid-related overdoses. Local paramedics deployed naloxone more than 330 times last year. Still, eight Seattle-area teenagers died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2019, Durkan said, calling fentanyl “a growing problem” for the city.
Seattle police seized about 228,000 fentanyl and fentanyl-laced pills last year, up from only 187 in 2018, the mayor said. This month alone, the police have seized about 41,000 such pills, she said at a City Hall news conference, joined by the mother and stepfather of a Ballard High School student who died in September from an overdose.
Naloxone has been proven to stop the effects of opioids and will help a person who has overdosed wake up and resume breathing, Durkan’s office said.
“We have to combat this opioid epidemic everywhere we can to keep people healthy and safe in our community,” the mayor said.
Leading up to Thursday’s announcement, Durkan’s office consulted with Deborah Savran, who lost her 17-year-old son, Gabriel Lilienthal, in September. Savran said Lilienthal “bought something that appeared to be a prescription oxycodone pill and took half of it, which was enough to be a fatal dose for him very quickly.”
Savran described the city’s actions as “great first steps” toward creating a more caring community, and said she hoped speaking out would help save other lives.
“Everybody in this room either knows or will know somebody affected by this epidemic,” added Jedediah Kaufman, Lilienthal’s stepfather.
The naloxone kits, which have two doses, will cost Seattle $93.74 each and will be distributed at the city-convened training sessions, Durkan’s office said.
The sessions will begin this spring and will be led by representatives from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington and from the Washington State Department of Health. Participants will learn how to recognize overdose signs and how to administer naloxone.
The city has scheduled an April session for Seattle Public Schools nurses. State lawmakers last year passed a bill requiring school districts with more than 2,000 students to obtain and store naloxone.
A separate session will be held for Seattle Public Schools security guards and another will target nightlife business owners and workers, the mayor’s office said.
Additional sessions will be conducted with community organizations such as Choose 180, which mentors young people to help them avoid the criminal justice system. “Black and brown young people” are sometimes overlooked in conversations about opioid use but shouldn’t be, said Sean Goode, Choose 180’s executive director.
“It’s imperative they know … they can be heroes,” Goode said.