'Narcan saved my life': Cumberland County Health Department offers free medication – The Fayetteville Observer

After flatlining twice, a Fayetteville man was given a second chance at life when a paramedic and an emergency medical technician administered Narcan, a medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.
William Wilson, 33, a volunteer for North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, said he began using oxycodone after he was medically discharged from the U.S. Army.
Five months ago, Wilson, the owner of Optimistic Beauty Salon Suites, had a near-death experience.
“Narcan saved my life,” he said. “Addiction isn’t something that anyone asks for.”
Wilson said he was told he flatlined twice, and right before arriving at the hospital, paramedics administered Narcan.
“I was in my car and I had just purchased drugs (what I thought was oxycodone), but it turned out to be fentanyl,” he said.
Wilson said he was thankful that he was given Narcan, providing him with a second chance at life.
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“For a lot of people, an overdose is when their battle with recovery begins because it’s a near-death experience,” he said.
Unfortunately, if Narcan is not available, a second chance at life may not be an option, Wilson said.
Free Narcan is now available at the Cumberland County Public Health Department pharmacy.  
“Everyone’s life has value, regardless if they are using drugs or have a chronic health issue,” said Melissia Larson, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition Law Enforcement Programs manager. “Everyone deserves access to medication that can save their life.”
The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners allocated funds toward Alliance Health. The managed care organization assisted the Health Department in order to purchase Narcan kits for the public, Health Director Jennifer Green said.
North Carolina is in an opioid epidemic, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The initiative behind offering free Narcan is to prevent opioid overdoses, Green said.
“When you get a Narcan kit, you also get a business card to NC Harm Reduction, and that person can link you to resources,” Green said.
For information on North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, visit nchrc.org.
“The purpose is to make sure that we are giving people a connection,” Larson said. “So, you’re giving them a naloxone kit, but you also want to provide them with a resource guide, so they know where they can receive services.”
Narcan is the brand name for naloxone.
More:Opioid-related deaths in Cumberland County nearly double over 5 year-period
The Health Department began providing free Narcan on Aug. 11. The pharmacy at the Health Department is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to noon Friday.
As part of the Narcan initiative, kits have been distributed to fire stations and Cape Fear Valley Health, along with additional organizations that work closely with patients, Green said. 
“We often hear that an opioid addiction can start with something as simple as a back surgery,” she said. “And then that spirals into an addiction.”
The Health Department received about 100 Narcan kits, which Green said she anticipates will last for the next 12 months.
“We want to treat that person with compassion and make sure that they have the tools they need to be successful,” she said.
Larson said the demand for Narcan kits has increased during the pandemic.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand that there’s a reason why people use drugs, maybe it’s to cope, maybe they have chronic pain, maybe they’ve had traumatic experiences that they’ve been through. There’s a variety of reasons that people use drugs,” Larson said. “And it’s not our place to judge why people use.”
Two days after Wilson’s overdose, Charlton Roberston, lead outreach specialist for North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, went to visit Wilson after being notified by the hospital of the overdose.
“Once he stepped into my house, that literally changed the trajectory of my life,” Wilson said.
Support is huge when in recovery, he said.
The Health Department hopes the Narcan initiative saves lives, Green said.
“Addiction is really challenging and people need a lot of social support,” she said. “People need a lot of help to overcome and work through an addiction, and this is one strategy we can utilize to help these individuals.”
Health and education writer Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon can be reached at acastrellon@gannett.com or 910-486-3561.
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